Clare GAA secretary Pat Fitzgerald is set to pursue a civil case against individuals behind a social media webpage for alleged harassment.
The news comes as he has requested a review of the Director of Public Prosecution’s (DPP) decision not to recommend a criminal prosecution after a file was prepared by An Garda Síochána. The DPP’s judgement is understood to have been handed down in recent days.
The Garda press office do not comment on correspondence with the DPP but they have confirmed an investigation was carried out and a file was submitted to the DPP.
In November 2019, then Clare chairman Joe Cooney confirmed they had made contact with the Gardaí about online abuse directed at Fitzgerald. “A complaint has been lodged with Clare GAA by an employee (Pat Fitzgerald). It arises from social media and what has been put up on it, not alone over the last couple of months but the last number of years.
“Other officers of Clare GAA have also been badly maligned on social media. It’s not good enough for people working as volunteers for the GAA whether at club or county level to be subjected to that. In fact, it’s a disgrace.”
In January of this year, Munster GAA secretary Kieran Leddy hit out at the “cowardly” abuse of Fitzgerald on social media. “The Fitzgerald family have given years of service to the Association at club and county level. I know Pat for many years as a very hard-working and dedicated GAA administrator, who goes well beyond the call of duty. The abuse is a cowardly act by the perpetrators.
“There is no doubt that while social media has its positive points, the unfettered ability of people, often acting behind pseudonyms, to direct sustained and vile abuse at individuals and organisations, is undoubtedly a major downside. The negative effects of this are well documented.”
Last weekend, Davy Fitzgerald raised the issue following his Wexford team’s All-Ireland SHC qualifier defeat to Clare. “The way myself and my family have been treated is an absolute and utter disgrace.”
He continued about his father: “The amount of abuse and stick and criticism that he has taken, unwarranted, is not justified.”
Speaking in January, Davy Fitzgerald expressed his hope there would be a prosecution. “It’s not about Davy and Pat Fitzgerald, this is bigger, this stuff has to stop. It’s not about us, we’ve taken a bit of it. There’s a lot more people that have taken a lot more than we’ve taken.
“It’s funny, I was showing a friend the other night, the book we compiled of a couple of hundred pages of the abuse and he couldn’t get over it when he saw it all together.
“Nobody should be subject to that in my view, nobody. I think we’ve crossed the line with that, be it social media, even media at times, I think we’ve crossed the line on it.
“Why do we need to do that? I just don’t see a need for it. Hopefully when the file is prepared, hopefully the DPP will stand up and not represent Pat Fitz or Davy Fitz, represent the people that need to be represented.”
Also that month, the Fitzgeralds’ club Sixmilebridge called out the behaviour. "Two of our members, Pat and Davy Fitzgerald, have been subject to sustained personal abuse (online and in person) due in part to the prominent public positions they hold on a national and county stage.”