Hurling and camogie

Name may remain the same but GAA must change in terms of gender equality: GPA

GPA Equality, Diversity and Inclusion manager Gemma Begley (right), with GPA CEO Tom Parsons (left) and Tyrone footballer Conor Meyler.
Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

THE name may remain the same but the GPA is demanding quick and meaningful movement towards gender equality in a new GAA encompassing both Camogie and Ladies Football.

The players' body is bringing a motion to this weekend's GAA Annual Congress asking for the Association to prioritise integration with the governing bodies of the two female codes and equal treatment across the board, as follows:

'The GAA shall prioritise integration with the LGFA and Camogie Association in order to jointly ensure equal investment, recognition and opportunity for all genders to play all sports in the Gaelic Games family.'

In the futuristic setting of the Connacht GAA Air Dome at Bekan, Mayo, that proposal may meet with some resistance from traditionalists but the Gaelic Players Association representatives argue that such change is long overdue.

Indeed, GPA CEO Tom Parsons, the former Mayo footballer, insisted that players will not rest until their aims are achieved: "What I would say on that is that the GPA and the players will be relentless when it comes to equality and when I say that, I don't say that lightly."

97 per cent of the GPA membership has backed this motion, and Ladies Football and Camogie captains have asked their representatives to Congress to express their strong support for it.

The GPA's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, former Tyrone Ladies Football star Gemma Begley took the 'a rose by any other name would smell as sweet' approach, arguing that a new title for a new overall organisation should be considered:

"Why not, why should it not be? From my perspective a lot of this is probably coming from the north, everything has to be collaborative…"

However, it certainly isn't important in her mind, acknowledging that after the male and female players' bodies amalgamated the GPA title was retained:

"Through the perspective of going through the merger with the lads, it's a cosmetic thing we're talking about it, let's face it. What's under the bonnet is really important…

"That's what we are trying to achieve, if that is what it took to re-unite Gaelic games, is it the biggest thing? I don't know.

"The GAA brand itself is worth exponentially more than what a new brand might be initially, I'm fully aware of that and, I suppose, the emotional attachment to the GAA as a brand but what we are trying to achieve is ultimately more important than what the organisation is called afterwards.

"We didn't change it [the GPA name], again it was cosmetic. What we achieved through the actual organisational structure, the governance, added equality as an object to our constitution. The whole organisation is duty-bound to work towards equality. There is a board of directors to hold us accountable to that."

Her Red Hand colleague Conor Meyler, a current football All-Star, urged more men to advocate for equality, rather than not looking at the problems:

"There is an issue there but I think a lot of male athletes don't want to recognise it.

"As a male athlete, because I haven't experienced the type of problems that Niamh [Kilkenny, of Galway Camogie] and Gemma have. A lot of us just turn a blind eye to it even though we know it's there.

"Myself and Gemma would pull on the same Tyrone jersey and we weren't getting the same opportunities. That's a problem and as a male we have seen campaigns before from the GAA and GPA and it is females talking about equality.

"We need a lot more men stepping up and starting to ask that question. Sport is a lens through which we can look at society, and society is moving forward with equality and the Gaelic games family is behind."

Meyler is happy to stand up as a male role model for equality, rather than simply standing by: "I don't know what goes on in the boardrooms but I want to be a role model for men to say we need to start having these conversations.

"Even culturally within the GAA, because men are making decisions for men, that cycle has continued and it's about time that we looked to make a change there."

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Hurling and camogie