Reprieve for Irish Guards in London junior championship

GAA intervene to withdraw motion seeking to expel British army team from association

Back on May 15th, 2003, just after the removal of Rule 21, a large crowd showed up at the Curragh to watch an historic game between the Irish and British defence forces. Photograph: David Sleator.

The GAA has moved to withdraw a motion before the London County Board seeking to expel the Irish Guards club. This was due to be discussed last night, having been submitted by Granuaile Hurling Club.

Last September the club, drawn from a British army regiment, was affiliated and it was due to compete in this year’s London junior championship. The decision to accept the club was taken on the casting vote of then county chair Noel O’Sullivan.

GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail said that it had been brought to his attention and that of the association’s director general Páraic Duffy and that they had discussed it and decided to intervene.

“We’ve written to the London GAA board and we’ve asked them not to make a decision until we, as a management, have a look at that because it’s nothing to do with one club, it’s all clubs. We’ve close to 2000 clubs. If we accept a club into our association, having done that then, it shouldn’t be so simple to just remove them.”

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‘Quite unpopular’

He spoke of clubs in various counties who would be “quite unpopular to put it mildly but if you at any given time would bring forward a motion to a county board [to remove them] you might find you could remove that club.

“So it should not be that simple – that’s a policy type issue. So we have discussed it and the Árd Stiúrthor has written to the London board, not to make decisions in that fashion, to hold on this and wait until we have time to discuss it and its implications for the whole association.”

Members of the British security forces were prohibited from joining the GAA for the best part of a century but the rule – Rule 21 – was repealed by special congress in November 2001. Were this motion to go ahead it would be a major embarrassment for the GAA but there are also practical reasons why Croke Park would oppose it.

Once the 2001 decision was taken there was no reason under rule why a club such as the Irish Guards should be denied affiliation. The corollary is that any move to expel it – or rescind the decision to allow its affiliation, as the motion phrases it – could be successfully challenged in the courts.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times