Where were the absent Congress voters?

NEW GAA President Christy Cooney has vowed that no inter-county games will be played on the day of Congress in future after votes went missing during Saturday’s crucial vote on the GAA’s experimental disciplinary rules.

The experimental rules which were trialled throughout the National leagues failed to get the required two-thirds majority, despite being heavily backed by 177 votes to 100 against. The rules fell eight votes short of being successful but it emerged later that 17 votes which had been cast during the election of GAA trustees earlier in the morning were missing when the disciplinary vote was taken. There were suggestions that some delegates left early in order to attend Saturday afternoon’s All-Ireland U21 football semi-finals in Thurles and Longford, which Cooney admitted was a source of concern.

“Whether people abstained or were missing, it is something that I will be bringing to the attention of Coiste Bainistí that in future no inter-county games will be played on the day of Congress so we can have a full representation of all counties. We will make sure that will not happen because we need a free day with everybody present to make decisions on whatever policy issues are before Congress.”

Cooney expressed his overall disappointment with the rejection of the new rules, but stated that the momentum for change remained within the GAA.

“My reaction was disappointing. I would have much preferred to see them get past the post by getting the required two thirds. Sadly, they didn’t. I said already there was strong momentum for change within our disciplinary rules today. That is not going to go away and it will be back in some format in the very near future. It is clear 63.8% of our membership want a change and that cannot be ignored and we will view where we are over the next period of time. Let’s see how things go in the championship and then come back with new proposals on the best way to satisfy the discipline in the Association.”

Rules Revision Committee chairman Liam O’Neill branded the GAA’s voting system as ‘archaic’ after changes to the disciplinary playing rules had failed to be passed by such a tight margin. He said: “The voting system we’re using is archaic.

The system that we’re using for referees would have solved it. There were a number of counties as well here who wanted to vote for this and for a number of reasons were mandated not to. The one thing that comes out of today is we’ve set the organisation on a course that it cannot turn back from.”

GAA Director General Páraic Duffy expressed his hope that the rules would return to be debated at future Congresses. “It is quite possible (they will be back at Congress next year).

It may not necessarily be the same motions, whether they be disciplinary motions if they are back on again. It certainly is not going off the agenda, so whilst it is disappointing to have lost the vote, there is clearly a wish.

“I’m not saying it is going to change, I think we certainly need to look at all aspects of Congress including the numbers voting because the Association has grown dramatically, particularly, overseas and there is a request for Asia to have a representative at Congress and voting rights.”

Prior to the vote being taken, several delegates expressed their views on the rules. Wicklow and Tipperary both made appeals that the rules be used only at inter-county level for this year and be reviewed before the start of the 2010 season, yet this was opposed by Cork board secretary Frank Murphy: “One set of rules for club and one set of rules for inter-county would not work. That should not be the case and we would be completed opposed to it,” he said.


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