Three officers of the Glanmire Ladies Gaelic Football Club have had their 24-month suspensions for bringing the LGFA into disrepute overturned by the Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA).
The three-person panel unanimously chose to strike out the bans handed down to Glanmire chairman Michael Hannon, secretary Kevin Walsh, and registrar Damien Kelleher for not renewing the membership of Tim Pat
O’Donovan and Eamonn O’Connor, Cork LGFA development officer. The suspensions had been upheld by Munster appeals committee.
For a number of reasons, including a lack of evidence, fairness, and Cork LGFA’s failure to comply with the “most basic requirements of due process”, the bans were dismissed and the €2,000 fine ordered to be returned to the club. Both O’Donovan and O’Connor issued cheques for membership renewal in May last year but Glanmire chose to officially discontinue their association with the club.
The DRA notes that there were claims made about a second bank account attached to the club that was not “declared” to the county board, while there appeared to be “a deterioration of sorts in the relationship between Third-named Interested Party (O’Connor) and Glanmire, or its executive, over a 6-8 month period before May 2018”.
An Investigative Sub Committee (ISC), charged by Cork’s executive committee with looking into the complaints, produced two reports. They found Glanmire were wrong not to submit the registration of the individuals and their behaviour was “an improper way of dealing with club issues”.
The DRA determined the ISC “perhaps uniquely among all of the parties involved in this mess performed the task allotted to them adequately and fairly and in accordance with the applicable rules”.
Having received the report, Cork’s executive committee, minus O’Connor, on November 14 last judged that Hannon, Walsh, and Kelleher should each be handed a
12-month ban per complaint to be served concurrently, while Glanmire was slapped with a fine of €2,000.
The club were informed the findings of the investigation would be discussed at a special general meeting of the board on December 2019 but were not told of the alleged offences that had already been decided upon. No minutes of the executive meeting were circulated at the special board convention and representatives of the club were asked to leave the room when proposals against the three officers and the club was being discussed and agreed upon.
The DRA concluded:
While it was clear Glanmire and the officers involved in the failure to renew the membership of the Second- and Third-named Interested Parties (O’Donovan and O’Connor) acted incorrectly and in breach of the rights and expectations of those members, the evidence found by the ISC and stated on its report was not sufficient on any reading to support a conclusion that the Claimants or any of them were guilty of conduct in breach of the Old Disrepute Rule
The DRA described the Munster appeals committee as having “erred on a matter of law” in backing Cork’s judgment.
“This Tribunal in assessing the lawfulness of the decision of Munster Appeals Committee need only ask itself the question whether it was correct or otherwise in upholding the decision of Cork LGFA: It is not necessary to show that it was irrational.
“In upholding the decision of Cork LGFA, Munster Appeals Committee was fundamentally mistaken, and its decision cannot stand.”
Although the DRA did not prevent Cork LGFA from reopening the matter as their judgment does not “automatically mean the claimants are ‘in the clear’”, they have insisted that those executive committee members who attended the November meeting, those persons who made submissions at the special general meeting and Munster appeals committee members are disqualified from being involved in any further disciplinary procedures.
The DRA were also critical of “the parties’ misplaced focus on trivialities” and proceedings at all levels being “manifestly defective”.
The DRA panel was Micheál O’Connell, Michael Delaney, and Patrick Moroney, with former Offaly hurler Rory Hanniffy acting as secretary.