SportNI to 'engage' with GAA over Rory Gallagher and Nicola Gallagher domestic abuse allegations controversy

Rory and Nicola Gallagher
Rory and Nicola Gallagher

A funding body which handed out more than £7.3 million to the GAA is to “engage” with senior officials in the wake of recent allegations surrounding ex-Derry manager Rory Gallagher.

Sport NI said on Friday it intends to raise the recent domestic abuse controversy in a bid to understand how the GAA responded.

Read More: Call for sporting bodies to have 'clear safeguarding procedures' in wake of Rory Gallagher controversy

Mr Gallagher stepped down as Oakleaf manager this week after allegations of domestic abuse were made by his estranged wife Nicola.

She broke her silence last week claiming in a Facebook post that she was the victim of physical abuse for more than two decades.

The Public Prosecution Services received two investigation files from the PSNI in January and June 2022 and it was determined there was not enough evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction in relation to any individual.

The GAA's approach to the sensitive allegations has come under intense scrutiny.

A spokeswoman for Sport NI said: “Over the coming weeks Sport NI intends to engage with senior officials in the GAA to understand how it has responded to recent allegations.”

The GAA has bagged millions in funding from Sports NI in recent years including £7.3m awarded to the GAA’s Ulster Council through its Sports Sustainability Fund.

The funding body has previously spoken out about the issue of violence against women.

Sport NI CEO Antoinette McKeown.
Sport NI CEO Antoinette McKeown.

Last year chief executive Antoinette McKeown said she was proud to support international Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls.

The spokeswoman for Sport NI highlighted the importance of sport.

“Sport plays an important role in our society, and can have a positive influence in highlighting a whole range of important issues including domestic abuse,” she said.

“We recognise that when allegations are raised, circumstances can be complex and challenging to navigate.”

Alliance MLA David Honeyford
Alliance MLA David Honeyford

Earlier this week Alliance MLA and spokesman on sport David Honeyford spoke of the need for all sporting bodies to have “clear safeguarding procedures” in place.

Former Derry ladies footballer and barrister Nodlaig Ni Bhrollaigh said trust in the association "has been shaken" by the Rory Gallagher controversy and called for an audit of the GAA's "organisational culture, practices and procedures".

It has been reported that Ms Gallagher’s father, Fermanagh businessman Gerry Rooney, made claims against her estranged husband in an email to the management of Derry GAA last May.

The Derry County Board said it has "no record of receiving any such email then or at any time subsequent to that".

In response Anne Marks, an ex-PSNI detective superintendent, said this week: "This should not be about whether or not we got the email.

“This is about being there for Nicola, and those like Nicola, not the process.” 

The GAA was contacted.