London GAA chief: British Army decision ‘landmark move’

London GAA chairman Noel O’Sullivan has described their decision to allow the British Army compete in next year’s local championships as a “landmark move”.

At Monday night’s meeting of the London County Board the Irish Guards regiment of the British Army were affiliated to London GAA in dramatic circumstances.

After Major Fox of the Irish Guards had presented his case to the board, the vote of delegates present was deadlocked at 15-apiece. O’Sullivan was called upon to provide a casting vote and the London chairman reaffirmed his desire to accept the Irish Guards into the Association.

They are now eligible to field teams in the 2016 junior hurling and football league and championship competitions.

The old Rule 21 in the GAA, which banned members of the British security forces from playing football and hurling within the Association, was deleted at Congress in 2001.

“It certainly was a landmark decision and you could get that sense from the meeting,” said O’Sullivan.“When Rule 21 was deleted all those years ago, I never thought a situation like this would arise. This was a sensitive decision because there are obviously still people who think strongly about their beliefs and you have got to appreciate that. They are not going to change their beliefs.

“I think it is better for the Association that we move forward together and we move forward progressively rather than dwelling on the past.

“In the initial vote, I voted in favour of their affiliation with London GAA. I wasn’t going to backtrack when it came to the casting vote. I am a great believer in not dwelling on the past. I think more about the future.” The Irish Guards regiment of the British Army left their station in Aldershot, Hampshire, to move to Hounslow Cavalry Barracks, West London, in June of this year and will be based there for the next three years.They are already training twice a week since the move, receiving support from Tir Chonaill Gaels and London GAA. They will play under the clubname Gardaí Éireannach.

“A lot of them are ex-pats from Ireland. And a lot of them are from Fiji and elsewhere around the world. There are people here from all nationalities. We are a diverse Association.

“We have people from all over the world interested in playing our games. What right have we to stop these people participating in our sport.

“I can’t see any logic in that. I welcome them in.

“I came to London from Ireland. I played with three different clubs. Nobody asked me what my occupation was when I came to London. Why should we be worrying about their occupation.

“I have got a lot of messages with people telling me I did the right thing. I have also received messages telling me I did wrong thing. I have to live with that.”

O’Sullivan thanked departing London football manager Paul Coggins for his “outstanding” five years of service. The board executive are determined to appoint his successor in the coming weeks.


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