Helen O'Rourke: Gaelic games integration process cannot be rushed

Ladies Football CEO Helen O’Rourke has said the integration process to deliver one association for all Gaelic games must be done right as 'there can be no going back'
Helen O'Rourke: Gaelic games integration process cannot be rushed

PROCESS: Uachtarán Cumann Peil Gael na mBan Mícheál Naughton, right, and chief executive Helen O'Rourke during the LGFA 2023 Annual Congress at Knightsbrook Hotel in Trim, Meath. Pic: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ladies Football CEO Helen O’Rourke has said the integration process to deliver one association for all Gaelic games must be done right as “there can be no going back”.

Commenting on the integration process in her recent annual report, the LGFA chief executive said the one Gaelic games association must be built on “equality and respect” so “we can all thrive”.

O’Rourke is a member of the integration steering group that announced on Tuesday its intention to seek submissions from every county board across the GAA, LGFA, and Camogie Association as part of its on-going engagement and listening process.

The steering committee will also conduct formal meetings with a number of county boards from across the three associations.

Writing in her annual report presented to LGFA Congress earlier this month, O’Rourke stressed the importance of the steering committee not being rushed in their work.

“It is a complex matter and won’t be easy. It is important that we are afforded time and space to get the structure of this One Association right as there can be no going back,” said the LGFA boss.

“As we work towards the integration of the three associations, we continue to have representation on GAA committees, and vice versa, ensuring greater collaboration and cooperation across multiple areas.

“As CEO, I continue to be a member of the GAA Coiste Bainistí and Mícheál Naughton, as LGFA President, is a member of GAA Ard Chomhairle. The GAA also has a representative, Martin Coleman, on LGFA Management and Central Council.

“These are important representations for both Associations to gain a greater understanding of the values, visions and operations of the LGFA and GAA.” 

O’Rourke’s annual report predates the strike action taken by Cavan players over a travel expenses row with the Cavan County Board, but she did note in her annual report the importance of recognising “that all counties are at different stages of development” when it comes to investment in their county teams.

The Cavan ladies did not fulfil their final Division 2 league fixture against Tyrone last Sunday as they continue to seek travel expenses for the 20 panel members based in Dublin.

The Cavan county board paid €30 each to four cars that drove from Dublin to Cavan for training at the beginning of February. No further travel expenses have since been paid by the board to the Dublin-based players.

The county board said in a statement on Sunday night that the €120, spread across the four cars, was a “once-off payment” made in “good faith”. Continuing this payment was not a “feasible option”, the board’s statement added.

Of the €2.4m annual government grant to female inter-county players, approximately €1.4m is being used to reimburse 1,700 female players for travel costs built up across the inter-county season.

It’s a pot, though, that is insufficient to properly reimburse players for the amount of money they are spending to get themselves to and from training each week.

The LGFA provides separate team funding support from their own coffers, with counties eligible to claim €10,000 if they compete in League and Championship.

“There is positivity in relation to the Inter-County Government Support Scheme and counties now operate in a multidisciplinary environment to support players and management teams,” O’Rourke continued.

“The allocation of funding provided was never in place to fully compensate for costs associated with running a county team or expenses for being part of a county team, but they certainly do assist all counties.

“It is essential that the county executive, manager and players collaborate on both the scheme submission but also all key aspects in relation to the team at the beginning of the year and that an agreed budget is put in place giving complete clarity to all.

“Open and clear communication throughout the year will then ensure all parties work together towards their common goals and ensure their full allocation is claimed.” 

The LGFA accounts show the association recorded a surplus of €888,620 last year. Of their €6m spend in 2022, €1.3m was on injury fund payouts, while staff wages, PRSI, and expenses totaled €992,289 for the year.

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