GAA Football

Armagh native Jarlath Burns stands in Congress election to vote for 38th President of the GAA

Armagh native Jarlath Burns will stand as a presidential candidate in tonight's election at GAA Congress
Andy Watters

ARMAGH’S Jarlath Burns is poised to be elected the 38th Uachtaráin Cumman Luthcleas Gael at tonight’s Annual Congress in Croke Park.

A Gael to his very core, the teacher from Silverbridge says that if elected president his job will be dictated by the values that mean so much to him and so many rank and file GAA members: Community, amateur status, respect, player welfare, inclusion, volunteerism and team-work.

Also in the running tonight are Jim Bolger (Carlow), Jerry O'Sullivan (Cork), Michael Rock (Roscommon) and international candidate Larry McCarthy (New York). All four have impressive credentials of their own and Cork-born McCarthy is thought by some to be the main challenger to Burns, the principal of St Paul’s High School in Bessbrook.

Last Monday night he flew in to Dublin from Rome, where the St Paul’s choir had been performing at the Vatican, and then drove to Waterford to meet their committee. In all he has visited 29 counties to canvass support and was told by the other three that he didn’t need to bother because they’d be voting for him anyway.

“I’ve picked up a great amount of good will along the way and also knowledge of what counties are saying and thinking and what they want a president to do,” said Burns.

“I have a very clear vision for the Association over the next three years and I told counties: ‘If you agree with that vision, then vote for me. If you don’t, there’s no problem, you can vote for the candidate whose vision chimes more with your own’.

“I’m saying to counties: ‘Don’t vote on a basis of friendships or who you know or whatever, just vote for the best candidate’. Ulster has been outstanding in their support of me, very, very solid, and the chairmen of all the counties have been like mentors for me and they’ll be working very hard for me before Congress as delegations arrive.

“Also people like Sean Og McAteer, Diarmuid Cahill, Ciaran McLaughlin and John Connolly have been very helpful and then the clubs in Armagh, I have to give great credit to them.”

Burns’ involvement with the GAA stems from his early days with his native Silverbridge Harps and developed with success as a player with St Colman’s College, Newry, the Sigerson Cup-winning St Mary’s team of 1989 and of course captaining Armagh to the Ulster Championship a decade later.

After his playing days came to an end he transitioned into committee roles at club, county and national level and hopes to be elected as Uachtaráin Tofa (president elect) tonight meaning he will succeed current President John Horan at the 2021 Congress.

“The values of the Association mean an awful lot to me,” he explained.

“Essentially, the president’s job is to uphold those values and I would never take that lightly.”

Burns has spoken of his intention to work to restrict inter-county training regimes and he intends to reinforce the message that: “the GAA is an inclusive organisation and not a threat to anybody”.

“It will always be a challenge for an organisation who’s raison d'être is to promote Irish identity and preserving Irish culture,” he said.

“The key thing is that we don’t have to give up any of the things which are important to us, what we have to do is to say to others that you don’t have to see any of those as a threat. In the same way that I don’t see the Orange Order as a threat to me or a threat to my culture, I see them as part of the rich tapestry of the culture of Ireland.

“If we are truly democratic people we should actually be prepared to rejoice in other people’s cultures and let them understand ours.”

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