Larry McCarthy calls for proper investigation into Seán Brown’s murder

GAA Congress: Outgoing president recalls toughest day in office at trial of former Crossmaglen treasurer Thomas McKenna

In his final address to congress, outgoing GAA president Larry McCarthy described last April’s court case in which Thomas McKenna was sentenced to 16 years for sexual abuse of children as the “worst day” of his presidency.

“The good days, I assure you exceed the bad days by multiples of hundreds. But the worst day I had in my three years as Uachtarán was sitting in Court 14, in Laganside Court, listening to a litany of crimes perpetrated on members of our association by, a now, former member.

“It is an experience that no Uachtarán has ever had, and I hope, and pray, that no other Uachtarán ever has. It was harrowing.”

McKenna had been treasurer of Crossmaglen Rangers in Armagh.


“I have the highest regard for the victims of these crimes, particularly their bravery in coming forward to ensure that the perpetrator was put behind bars. I acknowledge that there may also be victims who haven’t yet come forward and indeed may never do so, such is the trauma they have experienced.

“I also commend Crossmaglen Rangers for their dignity in handling what was, and continues to be, a very difficult circumstance for all concerned.”

Also in relation to the north, McCarthy paid tribute to former Bellaghy chair Seán Brown, who was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in May 1998 and called for a proper investigation.

“Seán was hugely involved in his community. Aside from Wolfe Tones there was the Ballyscullion Big Pedal Club, the Credit Union, he was a great mechanic, and a teacher. These were simply outward manifestations of what he was, a kind, caring individual who looked out for his fellow man with no heed to creed or colour.

“There has never been a proper investigation of Seán Brown’s murder. That most basic of post-death examinations, an inquest, has been denied the Brown family by the British government for 27 years. Whether it is on the streets of the Bronx, the lanes of west Cork, or the rolling hills of Derry, justice postponed is justice denied.

“It behoves the public authorities to ensure that all unsolved atrocities are resolved no matter the length of time it takes.

“I also ask that we endorse the decision of the Irish Government to take an interstate case to the European Court of Human Rights to prevent the implementation of the Northern Ireland Legacy Act.

“The Legacy Act proposed by the British government is fundamentally wrong because it will have the effect of shutting down avenues to truth and justice, including inquests, for historic cases. This will prevent us from ever knowing what happened to one of our club chairmen.”

He addressed the issue of the GPA’s action in support of its women’s members’ campaign for better conditions and a players’ charter. This included men’s teams standing with banners of support.

“Allow me to comment on our Players’ Association, the GPA. Our day-to-day relationship is for the most part cordial and professional. But there are times when it is not, and the latter stages of last year’s championship was one of those occasions.

“While nobody has any doubt about the sincerity of the desire to see the status of female players in our sister organisations elevated, the efforts of the GPA to have banners displayed prior to very significant GAA games last summer was inappropriate.

“Asking players who were going to play in the most important games of the year, indeed for some of the players, the most important of their lives, was distracting and unnecessary, no matter how good the cause.

“I have frequently made the point that words matter, that what we say matters, what we write matters, and we should always be cognisant of the impact of those words.

“The GPA did not choose their words wisely, when after their agm phrases such as ‘we will be organised and we will be ready to mobilise’ ... ‘we are preparing ourselves to be organised for any eventuality’, were widely reported.

“Foreboding language such as this is not only inappropriate it can have the effect of hardening attitudes against one’s cause, no matter how good it is.”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times