Joanne O’Riordan: Time the GAA grassroots made their voice heard
Croke Park is out of touch with the members when it comes to the Liam Miller charity match
Páirc Uí Chaoimh: at the centre of controversy over the appropriate venue for a charity game in honour of the late Republic of Ireland international Liam Miller. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
It blows my mind how much bad publicity the GAA manages to create for itself.
This is an organisation that is, I have to admit, quite open and honest whenever I had dealings with them on disability issues. But recently the image the GAA has created has left such a stain on the community-driven ideal that it will take a long time to recover.
The charity match organised for the Liam Miller Fund was a source of massive pride in Cork at a time we were all rocked by his death. The idea of the charity match was more to reflect, showcase and celebrate Miller’s life than mourn a tragic loss.
Unfortunately, this celebration will now be remembered for the fuss generated by an out-of-touch rule regarding the ban on the use of association grounds for other sports – and the hole the GAA has dug for itself.
The organisers of this charity match have the same motivation as anyone who hosts a similar GAA event. All they want to do is make their community a better place and unite groups of people together in the hope of raising funds and awareness for a good cause.
Sadly, they have come up against an organisation that seems disconnected from reality. What’s worse is that the organisation has never felt so disconnected from its members.
Year after year, we hear about how out of touch the ‘GAA dinosaurs’ are, about the disconnect between the community and corporate GAA world. We all know about the dinosaurs within the GAA, and we all know about the voices for change.
Myself and my family are community members of Millstreet and everyone I meet at GAA events are good GAA people, for want of a better term. I have seen grassroots activism throughout clubs and communities. People raising funds for whatever cause.
From recent memory alone I can think of clubs in Killarney raising funds for Ian O’Connell, a boy who was left paralysed after a cycling accident. I can think of the time the club here in Millstreet matched a sizeable donation to our local hospital.
Everyday people within the GAA doing extraordinary things. Yet, here we are, a group filled with charitable people, people who are not your typical revolutionaries who do not feel represented at the top table.
I have always wondered how so many GAA people can be misrepresented at something like the GAA annual congress. Ask any random selection of members and they will tell you they probably did not want Super 8 games in Croke Park, they probably would open up GAA grounds to different events when necessary.
The Michael Buble concert in Croke Park disrupted the Leinster final when it required a replay, but ask any member and they will say that replay should not have happened because people want extra-time and games to be decided on the day.
The whole thing about the GAA community is that it is made up of regular people, people who are fed up with how things seem to be going. And yet, bizarrely, this dissatisfaction never seems to be reflected at congress.
The GAA’s decision not to bring in transparent voting at congress hardly helped. Imagine that an organisation filled with volunteers, created for the people by the people, does not want you to know how they’re actually voting. These elected members literally voted against a critical part of democracy – transparency . For the life of me I’ll never understand why.
All I can hope for at this stage is that there are people coming up through the ranks who are actually willing to listen to what people want.
Or are we just stuck with a conveyor belt of delegates, ‘dyed in the wool’ who don’t reflect the needs of the grass roots. I hate tarnishing all members and leaders within the GAA. I don’t only trust that there are good members, but I know there are good members. Maybe it is time the everyday activists and revolutionaries took back the game they know and love.