O’Neill: Merging our structures a seismic shift

GAA president Liam O’Neill has accepted that moves to integrate all aspects of Gaelic games into one organisation would be the end of county boards as we know it.

O’Neill plans to bring a proposal to Congress to open formal negotiations with ladies football and camogie but accepted any move would have knock-on effects on the management structures in place currently around the country.

“Well I suppose there are three separate structures which involves three separate groups of people the whole way down along,” he said of the current systems in place for ladies football, camogie and Gaelic football and hurling.

“In a single one, while you would have a sub-committee system that would put them in, it would be a realignment. You wouldn’t have a county chairperson of all the one, you’d have one county body running it. We would have to look at the model where we couldn’t have the county board officerships as we have them now.

“We probably have to move to some sort of an executive running the county board which might be an interesting way of... it would be a different way of looking at how you do things. You wouldn’t be electing a youth officer, a development officer. You’d be electing an executive probably to run the county, with positions on it for what’s now known as the camogie association, the ladies football association, handball and rounders.

“So there would have to be a rethink on how it would be done and that would challenge us. But it could be the means by which we could regenerate the entire organisation if everyone is open minded about it.

“I’m not saying this is easy. We would probably have to get outside help. We would probably have to get some sort of facilitator to look at the thing with us and say, ‘this is how the thing could work if you all agree to go the route’.

“I think it could open up huge possibilities to do what we do, better.”

The end goal is one body to govern all aspects of GAA life. That would also mean sacrifices from those currently occupying presidential roles in their own organisations.

“We’re looking for one over-arching body, yes, but we’re looking at a situation where we would have to redesign the GAA as we know it to accommodate that. And we’re quite willing to do that.

“There would be one overall president but I’d imagine you could have a situation where the presidents of the other sports are vice-presidents of the GAA. You’d have to re-look at it. You’d have to look at where you would accommodate the other four presidents in the structure. There’d have to be some sort of realignment.

“They’d still be the leaders of their own organisations because one president couldn’t present cups to camogie, ladies football etc at the same time. We can hardly do it as it is, so one person just couldn’t cover it unless you had bilocation or trilocation or whatever.”

He expects a natural resistance to change but promised to keep all sides informed as the process develops.

“It’s hard to paint that picture for everyone at the moment because people look to it as, ‘how would this affect us?’ And that’s a reasonable position.

“But in the change process, that’s how life goes. You don’t get your way on change immediately. You have to work with it. But if there was goodwill and if people wanted it to be done, it could be done over a very short period, if people want to put up barriers, then it’s very easy to do it.

“What we’re asking the other organisations is to be honest, tell us where they are with it. The three organisations have been asked to put three motions to Congress saying that we will start the process of negotiation. And it’s a process that anybody can pull back from anytime they like. Nobody is going to be railroaded here.”


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