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The Irish News Archive Papers: June 1 1998: Abolition of GAA's Rule 21 stalled

The Irish News Archive

JOE McDonagh's dream of overseeing the deletion of Rule 21 during his term of presidency is effectively over following Saturday’s decision at a special congress to consider abolition only when policing reforms have been undertaken in the north.

As 295 delegates scuttled away from the conference room of the Burlington Hotel after four hours of intense debate, they left their visionary leader alone to try and sell a compromise deal which clearly was not as decisive as he would have liked.

Although spoken with grace, McDonagh’s words had a hollow ring to them.

He admitted afterwards that his ultimate ambition had failed in the face of strong Ulster opposition.

“This is a first step. We are creeping and crawling towards this (deletion) and I am invigorated by this courageous step that we have taken,” he insisted.

“There were some divergent views on the deletion of Rule 21 and I, as the elected leader of the Association, had to take all those views into consideration, particularly the serious concerns from our northern members.”

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EMERGING with a few hastily written notes around 7pm, GAA president Joe McDonagh hid his disappointment well and swallowed hard before reading aloud the GAA’s new official policy, which was passed unanimously by congress after it became clear a vote on scrapping Rule 21 would not take place.

McDonagh said: “a) The Gaelic Athletic Association is committed to the cause of reconciliation among the people of all Ireland based on mutual trust and respect.

“b) Recognising that the concept of an exclusion rule has no relevance in a situation where the national and cultural traditions of the people of all Ireland are equally recognised in response to the British-Irish peace agreement approved in the referenda of the people of all Ireland.

“Cumann Luthcleas Gael pledges its intent to delete Rule 21 from its Official Guide when effective steps are taken to implement the amended structures and policing arrangements as envisaged in the British-Irish peace agreement.”

The ‘effective steps’ are linked to the one-year review of the RUC to be undertaken by Chris Patton, who is due to complete his report in the autumn of 1999.

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BRITAIN’S minister of sport Tony Banks yesterday became the first British minister to attend a GAA match – the day after the association stalled on rule 21.

But the normally outspoken minister passed the ball when tackled on the rule banning security force members from playing the games.

Speaking after the Connacht Football Championship game between Sligo and London at Ruislip, which Sligo won.

Mr Banks said: “I’m trying to be as diplomatic as possible about this.

“I’m not a foreign office official, I’m trying to keep the right side of the line.

“I know when it is best now not to go charging in and I think this is a good one to stand on the line and watch.”

He admitted he was astonished that yesterday’s game had political overtures saying: “I just came to watch a Gaelic football match. I would not believe there was a big political issue behind it.

“I thought it was a non-controversial area of activity''.

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BRADLEY POINTS THE WAY FOR DERRY LADS

Ulster Minor Football Championship first round: Derry 2-13 Monaghan 1-11

A MARVELLOUS display of long-range scoring by Glenullin youngster Paddy Bradley helped Derry claim a deserved victory over Monaghan in the Celtic Park curtain-raiser.

Bradley’s third quarter exploits were the key to Derry’s five-point success.

After the home side led 0-7 to 0-5 at the interval, the corner-forward hit three huge points between the 35th and 43rd minutes and it was a Bradley long ball which was flicked to the net on 41 minutes by Darren McGeehan for the crucial score of the match.

Monaghan midfielder Jonathan Douglas, an Irish youth soccer international, was the player who caught the eye early on.

Fergal Mone’s 47th minute goal started the revival and the score was topped up by three unanswered Farney points, leaving only four between the teams.

Another marvellous Bradley score extended the Derry advantage to five but Askin’s fifth and final point of the afternoon in the 58th minute cut back the margin once more.

Monaghan’s last chance came seconds later when centre half-forward Declan McEntee saw a point-blank goalbound effort blocked by O’Neill’s legs. With the away team committing everything to attack, an injury-time breakaway should have ended with McGeehan claiming a Derry third goal. Instead, the Ballinderry lad’s shot skimmed over the crossbar for a point – and the last kick of the game.

Derry: B Gillis, K McGuckin, JP McErlean, K McLarnon, S Mullan, N McCusker, F Doherty, J Bell, P O’Kane, P Cartin, J Niblock (1-0), K O’Neill (0-4), D McGeehan (1-1), N Convery (0-1), P Bradley (0-7).

Subs: L Bradley for McGuckin 50 mins, L Diamond for McErlean 60.

Monaghan: F Smyth, F McArdle, R Ronaghan, G McQuaid, G Duffy, A Rooney, C McManus, S McManus (0-1), O Lennon, P Swinburne (0-2), D McEntee, C Leonard, P Askin (0-5), J Douglas (0-2), F Mone (1-0).

Subs: H Malone (0-1) for Ronaghan 40, G Treanor for McArdle 57.

Referee: M Hughes (Tyrone).

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