The successful conclusion to the protracted talks means that Monday’s friendly against Slovakia in Tallaght now goes ahead, with new manager Colin Bell set to host a pre-match press conference this afternoon.
It’s understood that key to a resolution of the dispute was what the players understood to be implicit recognition by the FAI of the principle of collective bargaining and their right to be represented by the footballers’ union, the PFAI.
“The issue that probably took most time in the negotiation was that of collective representation for the players,” said a source close to the talks.
“There would never have been a settlement if the players were not satisfied that the PFAI will be recognised as their representative body.
“That was a red-line issue for them. And they believe that these discussions have set the tone for the future.”
It has been estimated that the total financial package agreed is in the region of €100,000, with the players’ demands in relation to such issues as gym membership and access to a nutritionist also conceded.
Following the revelation at the squad’s press conference on Tuesday that the players had to change in airport toilets in order to hand back their tracksuits, it has since emerged that the gear they had to share with underage teams was actually designed for men. Now, as part of the new deal struck with the FAI, the players are to be provided with women’s-fit tracksuits exclusively for their own use.
The lengthy talks in a Dublin hotel saw the squad represented by 16 players, three PFAI representatives and two SIPTU officials, with PFAI General secretary Stephen McGuinness – who was on a family holiday in the US – being consulted by phone throughout the night.
On the FAI side, CEO John Delaney – who was in Helsinki where, earlier in the day, he had been elected to UEFA’s Executive Committee – was also consulted.
The two sides, who were in separate rooms, did not meet face to face at any point during the process, for which former trade union leader Peter McLoone acted as mediator.
SIPTU’s Ethel Buckley, one of the officials representing the squad in the negotiations, yesterday hailed the outcome as a “landmark agreement (which) was only possible due to the organisation, bravery and commitment of the national team players. Their courageous action in publicly outlining their concerns provided their union representatives with a solid foundation from which to engage with the FAI and find a just resolution to this dispute.”
She said that what she termed their “short, sharp and successful campaign” was a reminder that in Irish society women should never accept being treated as second-class citizens.
“I think this dispute is bigger than football,” she added.
“I think it touched something in the country, even among people who have no interest in football, because it spoke so much to gender relations in the country right now. And it was striking that it was out of football, something which has traditionally been seen as quite a male bastion, that this push came for women’s rights generally.”
PFA Ireland Player Executive, Ollie Cahill, who was also involved in the negotiations, said: “The PFA Ireland is pleased that a comprehensive agreement has been reached which addresses all of the issues raised by the Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team.
“The PFAI would like to thank SIPTU who stood by us and guided us throughout this dispute. We would also like to thank the public for getting behind our union and supporting these inspirational women and we now look forward to these players taking women’s football in Ireland to the next level.”
In a statement, the FAI said: “Discussions between both sides came to a successful conclusion where all ‘issues to be addressed’, as outlined by the players, were successfully resolved.
“Following the positive outcome to the mediation process the players confirmed that they will return to training in preparation for their international fixture against Slovakia on Monday at Tallaght Stadium.”
The Association added that it was, “pleased that both sides have reached common agreement and a settlement which allows the two parties to move forward together as one, in the best interests of Irish football.”
Before resuming training with her team-mates at a closed session at FAI headquarters in Abbotstown yesterday, team captain and goalkeeper Emma Byrne welcomed a “victory” for the women’s team, tweeting: “Long night, tough going - finally both sides came to an agreement! Victory! Thank you for all your support. It proves unity is a powerful force.”
And at the successful conclusion of the marathon talks, striker Stephanie Roche tweeted: “Happy to have finally come to an agreement after a long night. Big thanks to everyone who showed their support on all this.”