Rory Gallagher free to resume GAA coaching career

Former Derry manager had received a temporary ban from the Ulster Council last year

Rory Gallagher is free to resume coaching after his debarment from the GAA was overturned by the Disputes Resolution Authority.

The Ulster Council adopted a position last September to temporarily ban Gallagher from the GAA while the Ulster Adult Safeguarding Panel undertook an independent investigation into allegations of domestic abuse made against the former Derry manager by his ex-wife, Nicola.

Gallagher had at that stage already stepped down as Oak Leaf boss but he was still involved in coaching at club level with Monaghan outfit Corduff at the time of the debarment.

He challenged the penalty and his case was heard by the DRA on February 1st, with the independent arbitration body’s ruling conveyed on Wednesday through a detailed report, which determined: “Ulster Council did not have power to debar the Claimant in the manner it sought.”


In outlining their decision, the DRA said: “In the circumstances, our award will declare invalid the decision of the Respondents to impose debarment on the Claimant and to refuse the appeal taken by the Claimant against that decision.”

Last October the Ulster Council confirmed they had received the Safeguarding Panel’s report but details of the findings were never released.

Gallagher’s DRA case was taken against the Ulster Council Management Committee, the Safeguarding Appeals Committee, and the Ulster Adult Safeguarding Panel.

The hearing took place Dublin’s Green Isle Hotel on February 1st. Gallagher is listed among the remote attendees, as is his solicitor Feargal Logan.

The DRA’s report outlines the timeline that led to this week’s determination on the matter.

The domestic abuse allegations against Gallagher were made on social media on May 9th of last year. On May 14th Gallagher “advised Ulster Council that he would be stepping down (as Derry manager) on an interim basis”. Two days later he published a statement to that effect.

On June 27th, Ulster Council sent Gallagher a letter notifying him of the appointment of a safeguarding panel with terms of reference to “establish what, if any concerns were raised within any unit of the GAA in relation to (the Claimant’s) behaviour.

“To review the response to any concerns raised in line with the current GAA safeguarding policies and procedures. Determine what risk, if any, derives from (the Claimant’s) behaviours in relation to the GAA. To advise Ulster GAA of any appropriate measures or sanctions that may be required to manage any such risk identified, where possible.”

The report indicates thereafter that Ulster Council and the safeguarding panel were under the impression that because he had stepped down as Derry manager and received notification of the inquiry, Gallagher would not be partaking in any GAA activities while the investigation continued.

“While that assumption is perhaps understandable, there is nothing in anything actually said by the Claimant that amounts to a promise or undertaking of this kind,” stated the DRA.

The Ulster Council emailed Gallagher’s solicitor on August 17th to highlight reports the former Derry manager was at the time still involved in coaching a senior club team in the province, and inquired if that was indeed the case. The Ulster Council sought a response by August 22nd, but there was no reply.

A follow-up email was sent on September 4th but no response was forthcoming then either.

“Further communications were made with the club the subject of the query, in an attempt to establish whether indeed the Claimant was coaching at that club,” added the DRA. “A response was received from the club that was, frankly, evasive, and the query remained unanswered.”

Ulster Council then wrote directly to Gallagher on September 10th informing him that the province’s safeguarding panel was recommending he be “temporarily debarred from any role or participation in GAA activities, with immediate effect from the date of this letter, without prejudice and until such time as the safeguarding panel have concluded their consideration of the matters referred to above”.

Gallagher’s solicitor responded the following day, raising several queries including the rule basis for debarment.

On September 20th, Gallagher lodged an appeal against the decision of the safeguarding panel, which was issued to the Central Appeals Committee and to the GAA Safeguarding Appeals Committee. Ultimately, the Ulster Safeguarding Appeals Committee took on the case and ruled in favour of the provincial council.

“We find that it was a decision open to Ulster GAA, on foot of the recommendation of the Adult Safeguarding Panel to issue a temporary debarment in line with Riall 7.8(a) and the Ulster GAA Adult Safeguarding Policy,” stated the Ulster Safeguarding Appeals Committee.

On October 4th, Gallagher directed his claim to the DRA.

There were three major issues to be determined – the first of which was actually a challenge to the authority and jurisdiction of the DRA, with Gallagher’s legal team suggesting only the courts of Northern Ireland could deal with such a dispute. Ultimately, the application to decline jurisdiction was refused.

The core of Gallagher’s case was that Rule 7.8 of the Official Guide did not authorise debarment from the association.

They also argued debarment was disproportionate, but on that issue of the DRA decreed “the decision of the adult safeguarding panel was not disproportionate on the facts of the case”.

However, that opinion was made redundant by the DRA’s decision on the overarching issue of whether they believed provincial officials had in fact the remit through rule to temporarily exclude Gallagher from the association. The DRA stated: “Ulster Council did not have power to debar the Claimant in the manner it sought to do.”

Ulster Council officials told The Irish Times they hope to issue a statement on Wednesday evening.

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Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times