Northern Ireland

Ulster GAA chief believes ‘increased safeguards required’ as domestic abuse and violence-linked review considered

Association considers first safeguarding panel review

Brian McAvoy, Ulster GAA. <br />Picture Mark Marlow
Brian McAvoy, Ulster GAA.
Picture Mark Marlow
Brian McAvoy, Ulster GAA.
Picture Mark Marlow

The secretary of the GAA in Ulster has said there is “little doubt that increased safeguards will be required” as officials consider the findings of a review into concerns linked to domestic abuse and violence.

Brian McAvoy, who is also chief executive officer, made the comments in a report to be presented to Ulster GAA’s Annual Convention later this month.

In it, Mr McAvoy also refers to what he says has become known as ‘the Crossmaglen case’.

Former GAA official Thomas McKenna
Former GAA official Thomas McKenna

While not named, this is believed to be a reference to the conviction last year of former Crossmaglen Rangers treasurer Thomas McKenna for dozens of sex crimes against young boys dating back over three decades.

McKenna was sentenced to 16 years in prison over 162 sexual abuse offences including serious sexual assault, indecent assault, voyeurism and possession of an indecent image of a child.

His offending spanned a 30-year period from 1989 to 2018 and involved 23 male victims, ranging from 14 to 39 years of age.

He will be placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register indefinitely.

In his report Mr McAvoy paid made reference to the victims.

“We are indebted to those victims who remained steadfast in their resolve to ensure that the perpetrator was brought to justice and we extend our sincere thanks to their families, the club and wider community for their ongoing support,” he wrote.

The GAA’s most senior official in Ulster also admitted it is not known what the total number of victims is.

“We don’t know how many victims there were, but we can be sure that the actions of those victims who broke their silence have saved future victims from having to endure the trauma and pain that they endured,” he stated.

“Ulster GAA are deeply saddened and sorry that this abuse took place within one of our clubs, perpetrated by one of our own members and from the moment we became aware of what was happening, we were committed to helping and supporting those impacted in any way we could.”

Brian McAvoy, Ulster GAA. <br />Picture Mark Marlow
Brian McAvoy

In his report Mr McAvoy confirms that the GAA has updated its child safeguarding policies and guidance over the past 20 years, adding that the association’s “duty of care isn’t just for our youth”.

“As an association, we have a responsibility to safeguard all members who participate in Gaelic Games and activities, regardless of age or ability,” he said.

The leading official also referred to the development of an Adult Safeguarding Policy and the appointment of an Adult Safeguarding Panel of experts, which cases can be referred to for review.

“The first referral to the Adult Safeguarding Panel was made this year, when they were tasked with considering our response towards concerns of a domestic abuse and violence nature that had been raised,” Mr McAvoy wrote.

“The association is considering the findings of this review and there is little doubt that increased safeguards will be required in the future.”

Mr McAvoy also highlights the GAA’s support for the White Ribbon Pledge, which promotes an end to male violence against women.

“Ulster GAA has committed to the White Ribbon Pledge to never commit, excuse or stay silent about sexual harassment, sexual assault

or domestic violence against others and I use this forum to reaffirm our commitment to this pledge,” he said.

“In so doing I encourage any member who has concerns about these serious and sensitive matters to raise these either with their county Designated Liaison Person (DLP) or the safeguarding managers at Ulster or national levels.”

Both Mr McAvoy and Ulster GAA were contacted but did not respond.