Laois man begins loud protest at parish rule

A 71-year-old Laois man has begun a protest against the GAA’s parish rule until his club is given the right to hold on to the underage players they have been developing.

Ballypickas treasurer Tom Cahill has attached a loudspeaker to his car and plans to picket county board offices, the Leinster Council offices, all Laois home games and various towns across the county following what he views to be an unfavourable response to mediation talks.

The club, drawing players from the Ballinakill and Abbeyleix parishes, has been fighting the rule since 1987. However, despite the Leinster Council agreeing to oversee a gentleman’s agreement between Ballinakill and Ballypickas, Cahill saw red on hearing the first round of mediations did not go his club’s way. Two members from each club and the county board and three members from the council met last week to adjudicate over the playing rights of 22 children, four of whom were denied Bally-pickas membership. Cahill reacted by starting his protest: “I’m not going to protest everyday. I have things to do on certain days and time,” he said. “I won’t be hereMonday or Tuesday but I will be somewhere Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday for part of them days. I will be outside O’Moore Park onSunday and protest right through the matches in Portlaoise on my loudspeaker. I’m going to keep the protest going and upset roads andrailways and stations and streets in Mountrath, Abbeyleix, Ballinakill, St Canice’s, you name it. ”

Cahill pointed to two cases in his club where brothers were told to play for different clubs. “I’m here at the moment in the protest at Laois County Board. It’s over the parish rule andunfair treatment of children and parents in certain areas who have been bullied into hurling for clubs they don’t want to play for.

“There were two brothers hurling with us and their two younger brothers came three or four years down the line and were told to play for another club. They never hurled again, never took a hurl in their hand since.

“There was another family where the same thing happened. The older brother was hurling with us and they came and took the other one.

“The tension in the area is unbelievable. I can’t tell you what it’s like, I’d only get myself into trouble.”

However his club’s secretary, Mary Whelan, wishes to continue the current arrangement which will guarantee long-term stability for Ballypickas.

“The club can only comment that we have recently signed a mediation agreement in order to responsibly give certainty to children and their families that they can continue to play with the club,” she said.

Those sentiments were echoed by Laois board chairman Brian Allen. “We understood the club had signed up to the agreement and were happy with it. As far as Laois is concerned this matter is done and dusted.”

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