A development financing topic certainly worthy of debate
In early 2004, the last motion to open Croke Park to other sports was ruled out of order before being presented to the annual convention. The response from the sponsor counties was swift and ruthless.
“It smacks of totalitarianism,” Dublin County Secretary John Costello said. The late Noel Walsh of Clare, a tireless promoter of the cause: “It’s a black day for democracy”, while Tommy Kenoy of Roscommon, who had been one vote away from leading reform three years earlier: “It’s is a dictatorship approach that does not mesh well with democracy within the GAA. ”
They were just three of eight counties that had submitted similar motions and the object of their anger was the Motions Committee, made up of all former GAA presidents – a collective not generally known for its fashionable liberal views. .
Even so, it took the biscuit. Enormous efforts had been made to ensure that everything was in order. Then-Chairman Seán Kelly was an outspoken supporter of the change and the Croke Park Management Committee, through the Central Board, made available the GAA Bylaws Sub-Committee to review proposed motions .
However, even the counties which had undertaken this consultation saw their proposals rejected. Clare went so far as to ask DG Liam Mulvihill to take a look at their text, but to no avail.
The former presidents had overplayed their game and were disbanded soon after as the motions review body and replaced by the Rules Advisory Committee (RAC).
Just last week the RAC made headlines when John Connellan, the former Westmeath footballer who led the campaign to overhaul the amount of funding given to Dublin as part of a review of all game development grants, accused Croke Park of trying to undermine its proposals, which were taken up by six counties.
This was a reference to the lack of support he felt from the RAC in terms of drafting the proposed change as well as what he believed to be a calculated letter to the counties in December during the annual convention season. , pointing out that the GAA was already conducting its own funding review.
At the time of this writing, it’s unclear if the proposed motion, which was ruled out of order when first submitted, has been redrafted to the satisfaction of the RAC, but suffice it to say that the background music does not wasn’t great.
The motion, backed by Westmeath, Roscommon, Galway, Mayo and Tyrone, seeks to base future funding on registered membership in a county subject to a 5% tolerance. Any additional deviations will need to be supported by a business case approved by Congress and subject to biennial review.
Either way, it is likely that the proposal on “fair and equitable training and development funding” would find the 60% weighted majority too high to pass.
However, that is not the point. This issue has been of concern for several years and given the amount of work required to develop a proposal, which has attracted the support of five counties, spread over three provinces, it certainly deserves to be heard.
Doesn’t that make it a reasonable topic of discussion at the GAA’s largest representative forum?
The RAC emphasizes that its mandate is to assist in drafting, not a hands-on exercise. They identify the faults, specify the remedy and leave it up to the sponsors. The problem with this clearly defined role is that from the proposers’ point of view, it’s two strikes and you’re out.
The committee can put away minor mistakes but is not allowed to completely rephrase and yet it would be really better to facilitate the platform of major concerns within the association.
It’s not as if the case presented by the proposal is unanswered. Connellan himself acknowledged the reservations within the administration about the recorded membership metric, but believes there must be an empirical measure for comparison.
Registered membership is a curious measure, however, given that development spending is more typically deployed in places with weak presence. It could be argued that the smaller the number of registered members, the more intervention a territory needs.
Congress itself is also a problem in this regard. For years, clár has been increasingly dominated by rules. Former DG Páraic Duffy made long-lasting but unsuccessful attempts to encourage engagement on the policy issues raised by his annual report.
Even the sporadic declaratory motions of the past – for example the annual rededication of Crossmaglen – are dwindling.
Attempts have been made to broaden the deliberative function of the congress, through for example the Friday afternoon workshops, but for most the only way to be heard is to propose a new rule or an amendment to the Official Guide.
That’s what the five counties behind Connellan’s proposal had to do. Unfortunately for them, the detail of their solution is better embedded in a policy document than in the rulebook.
Again, that doesn’t mean the arguments shouldn’t be heard. There will be football championship proposals at convention, based in part on opinions aired at last October’s special convention where no proposal won approval.
Currently, Shane Flanagan, the GAA’s Practice Games Development Manager, is conducting a review of Croke Park’s development funding. Wouldn’t this journal benefit from taking the temperature during a congressional debate on the subject?
This is serious business but also collaborative. If the GAA is persuaded that the Five Counties case is wrong – and they probably are – what would be the harm in allowing discussion?
Suppressing debate is never beautiful.