John Horan was last night elected as the first Dublin-born GAA president since 1924 when Daniel McCarthy finished his three-year term.
He will take over from Aogán Farrell as the 39th Uachtarán in 12 months’ time.
The Na Fianna man, 58, was an emphatic victor, winning on the first count and exceeding the quota of 140 by four votes. Frank Burke (Galway) and Seán Walsh (Kerry) finished in joint-second place with 46 votes followed by Martin Skelly (Longford) with 22 and Robert Frost with (20).
In his acceptance address, an emotional Horan thanked his wife Paula, his club and county board while congratulating the other candidates on a fair and honourable election – “it was a tough campaign and anyone who spoke to us in the last couple of days realised the drain it was for each and every one of us.”
In acknowledging his club, Horan mentioned its motto and how much of a touchstone it was for him – “purity in your heart, strength in your limbs and actions according to your words.”
Two Dublin-affiliated men have taken the office since McCarthy. However, Seán Ryan (1928-32) was born in Tipperary and Dr James Joseph Stewart (1958-61) hailed from Clare.
All of the losing candidates were magnanimous in defeat. Walsh, who was beaten by Aogán Farrell in 2014, said: “Of course, I’m disappointed but on any occasion there has to be winners and losers and obviously I’m a loser again. I’ve four beautiful granddaughters at home – I think tonight they could be the real winners.”
Frost congratulated Horan on running a good campaign but took pride in the one he had ran and paid tribute to his county for supporting him and expressing delight “in being able to be in the position to contest” for the office.
Skelly was disconsolate too – “maybe for a few weeks Longford were on the All-Ireland trail.” Burke remarked: “While disappointed, I’m happy to have raised the flag for Connacht, the first time we have had a candidate in four presidencies.
“While unsuccessful, I am proud to say I contributed successfully to the future leadership of the association.”
Reacting to GAA director general Páraic Duffy’s annual report last night, Donegal chairman Seán Dunnion expressed concern about how county boards were exposed to extra costs because of the new deal with the Gaelic Players Association.
“It was a very good deal for the players. It was sold to counties that it would be cost neutral and boards would be reimbursed for mileage rate and weekly food allowance.
“At November’s Central Council meeting, the players’ charter revealed elements of it (the deal) that are undoubtedly placing additional financial burden on counties that weren’t there heretofore.”
Dunnion also mentioned the “significant increase of gear allowance” for inter-county players. Responding to Dunnion’s comments, Duffy said the GAA’s Management Committee will look into the concerns raised: “It has been an issue of concern over the last number of weeks. Issues have arisen and I’ll bring the points to Coiste Bainisti.”
He expanded his point on the total cost of running inter-county teams in 2016: “As part of the general issue, €23 million is the generally agreed figure – is it the right thing to do?
“Should we be spending that kind of money? Do we need all the competitions we have? Are we really serious about controlling expenses?” Duffy continued: “When a manager is appointed, a county committee has a responsibility to make it clear to management what can and can’t be spent.
“We need to simply cut our cloth and in many places we’re not doing that. We need to set the standards.”
A number of speakers expressed concern about the damage being done to rural Ireland. Wexford’s Tony Dempsey stated the GAA had to convince Government bodies “it’s worth preserving”.
Cork chairman Ger Lane thanked Croke Park for their “ongoing assistance” both financial and strategic in the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh, which will open in mid-June. Duffy said the stadium will stun people and the Cork GAA fraternity will be “so, so proud” – “it’s so impressive”.
If all Congress delegates are present for today’s voting (295), 197 will constitute the golden two-third majority. There was noticeable interest last night in the growing size of international delegations. The likes of Lancashire and London are represented by five delegates like counties such as Armagh, Donegal and Fermanagh.
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