A mother of four has asked the High Court for an injunction restraining the Co. Dublin-based GAA club Fingallians from barring her children from participating in club activities.
Sinead O’Farrell, of Sandford Wood, Swords, Co. Dublin, was on Monday granted permission by Mr Justice Brian O'Moore to serve short notice of the injunction proceedings on the officials of Fingallians GAA Club.
Her barrister, Richard Kean SC, told the court his client was seeking the restraints on behalf of her children Luca (10), Cai (8), Nia (6) and Alia (5) who, she claimed, along with their father, Jason, and herself had been banned from the club. Mr Kean said the O’Farrells were all paid-up members of Fingallians, Seatown West, Swords, and all of her children take part in both football and hurling.
Ms O’Farrell, in an affidavit supporting her application for a number of injunctions against club officials Colin Foley, Carl Jones, Eoin Martin, Denis McCarthy, Sarah Nixon and Pat Ward said a dispute had arisen following a football tournament for boys under nine years of age in Newry, Co. Down, last year.
She claims her husband, other parents, and volunteer coaches were unhappy with the approach to the tournament taken by Mr Richie Herity, who had been the head coach of the club's U-9 boys group. Arising out of the fall-out within the club from the tournament, she said that Jason, and other adults whose children were part of the group, were fired as volunteer coaches of the U-9s in September.
She added that since their removal there have been a series of communications and meetings involving club officials, the O'Farrells and the other parents without any of the issues between them being resolved.
She also says that she now understands one particular communication from the club, involving the coaching, vetting, and transfer to another club “to have been a clear suggestion/invitation for my family to leave Fingallians GAA and go elsewhere.” Ms O’Farrell said the matter was now urgent as their children were due to return to training on the new Fingallians all-weather pitch.
Their solicitors wrote to the club seeking an undertaking, including that no steps be taken by Fingallians to prevent the O'Farrell children from accessing the club's facilities. In reply to the O'Farrell's solicitors, the club said in a letter that their children are "entitled to the same access to the club's facilities and activities as all other club members in good standing", and it had "no intention to exclude them."
The club have accepted that there had been difficulties between some of the mentors of that particular group and certain parents of children in that group. Some of the volunteer mentors have refused to coach the children of those parents, the club said.
The club said it was attempting to take steps to place these children with other squads whose mentors have agreed to coach them. The intent of this is to avoid distress, not to cause it, the club said.
Ms O'Farrell said that no undertakings were given by the club. The children, she said, are "innocent", "wholly blameless" and were being "victimised", separated from their friends and "punished" over something they have no connection with.
Ms O’Farrell is seeking injunctions restraining the officials from interfering with the family’s right to attend the club and participating with club teams or groups. She also seeks declarations including that a message sent by the club to her husband earlier this month purporting to ban the family from training is unwarranted, unjustified, unlawful and has no legal effect.
Judge O’Moore, on an ex-parte basis, granted short service of Ms O’Farrell’s proceedings on Mr Foley (club chairperson); Mr Jones (vice chairperson); Mr Martin (secretary); Mr McCarthy (juvenile chairperson); Ms Nixon (children’s officer) and Mr Ward (disciplinary chairperson). The case will come back before the court later this week.