John Horan becomes first GAA president from Dublin in 96 years
The 58-year-old from Na Fianna emerged as the overwhelming victor in Friday election
Incoming GAA president John Horan speaks at the 2017 GAA Congress in Croke Park. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Dublin’s John Horan on Friday night swept to an unexpectedly emphatic victory to become president-elect of the GAA. He takes up office in 12 months time.
From the largest election field since 1990 – there were five candidates running – 58-year-old Horan emerged as the overwhelming choice of this year’s annual congress, being held in Croke Park, getting elected on the first count, 10 clear of the combined total of his rivals.
The vote saw him defeat Seán Walsh from Moyvane in Kerry and Frank Burke from Loughrea in Galway, who tied for second place. The total valid poll was 278. Horan received 140, Burke and Walsh 46 each. Longford’s Martin Skelly and Robert Frost from Clare received 22 and 20 votes, respectively.
He becomes the first native Dubliner since Daniel McCarthy 96 years ago to be elected to the office although Dr JJ Stuart, from Clare, the last recorded president from the capital, was elected in 1958.
Horan comes from Glasnevin and is a life-long member of Na Fianna, his local club which he has also managed, and is a secondary school principal in St Vincent’s CBS. His administrative career is unusual in that he didn’t hold office in a county board but rose to prominence in the secondary school sector, which he represented on the GAA’s Central Council.
He was elected vice-chair of the Leinster Council in 2011 and became chair three years later, a post he held until earlier this year.
The new president-elect thanked the Dublin county board, chair Seán Shanley and CEO John Costello for their support and also his wife Paula. He said it was a great honour for “my club up the road”.
Horan will be the 39th GAA president, the 14th from Leinster – the first since Nickey Brennan, 2006-09.
Earlier in the evening during a debate on the annual report of director general Páraic Duffy, he responded to comments on rural decline by saying, “rural Ireland is dying,” which he added had serious implications for the GAA. He went on to say that the association might consider involving itself more actively as a pressure group in relation to the issue.
Meanwhile, GAA director general Páraic Duffy has hit out at the cost of running county teams, estimated at €23 million last year. Speaking to the debate on his annual report, he said: “It’s not just a question of whether that spend is sustainable but should that amount be spent? Do we need all the competitions or the season to be as long as it is?”
His remarks were in response to Donegal chair Seán Dunnion, who expressed concerns about the cost of financing the recently concluded agreement between the GAA and the Gaelic Players Association. Citing the increase in mileage and food allowances and what he described as “a significant increase in the footwear allowance” as well as gym and medical costs, he called for a review of the rebate model to include the expense of the Players Charter.
Duffy responded that whereas he appreciated Dunnion’s point and accepted that the GAA should look at the situation, there was a tendency to blame the escalating costs of county teams on managers and the GPA. “We need to look at ourselves as well and cut our cloth to measure. People ask, ‘why not put a spending cap on county teams?”