GAA to raise UK Legacy Act at its annual Congress

Legislation is ‘thwarting’ pursuit of justice by Seán Brown’s family and others

The GAA is to make its feelings clear on the British government’s Legacy Act, which limits legal redress for families of victims of the Troubles. Already the legislation has caused controversy in Northern Ireland where a strong consensus of both the families and political parties across the political spectrum have opposed the measure.

It has also been the source of friction since the Irish Government launched an interstate case against Britain for breach of the European Convention of Human Rights.

In his annual report, Tom Ryan, director general of the GAA, highlighted the case of former Bellaghy chair Seán Brown, who was murdered nearly 27 years ago after locking the club premises late at night. His family have pressed for justice, but the inquest has been subject to interminable delays.

“Worse still,” writes Ryan, “the decision of the British government to introduce a Legacy Bill means that the inquest process is on a time clock, which will run out on May 1st.


“I write about Seán Brown because he was a highly active and respected member of our association, a pillar of his community and a valued member of the wider GAA family.

“I think too of the family of Patsy Kelly from Trillick and the countless other families who seek truth and some measure of closure and who are being thwarted by the decision of the British government to proceed along this route.”

Questioned at the press conference about the issue, Ryan said that it would be raised by GAA president Larry McCarthy in his final address to congress in a fortnight.

“We are going to discuss that at Congress. The Uachtarán will have words to say on that. I choose my words carefully in the report and I don’t want to deviate from that because I know it is a very, very sensitive subject.

“I think the principle is an important one that the whole association should stand behind Seán Brown’s family.”

Also in Northern Ireland, Ryan said the GAA remained “fully committed to providing partnership funding” for the Casement Park project, which has been in train for more than a decade and received a lifeline when the still derelict ground was chosen as a venue for Euro 28.

“The one thing that hasn’t wavered along all the time with this thing was our part of it. So, we’re still there. We’re still backing it; we still have made a financial commitment to it; and we still really, really need it to happen.

“I think it was a positive that it was designated as a venue for Euro 2028. Yeah, I think things have changed significantly in our favour since I sat here last year. I think the fact that the executive has been restored as well will undoubtedly be a positive, so I can only control the bits we can control, they’re still absolutely in place, but things are looking better in the overall scheme of things.”

Asked might the GAA increase its pledged sum of £15 million, Ryan was circumspect.

“You’ve seen our figures, and admirable as it is as a financial performance, there’s not a whole lot of scope for something in excess of what has been committed to Casement.”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times