The Ulster Council’s second Club and Community Development conference organised in partnership with the Irish News took place in the Europa Hotel, Belfast, on Saturday 15th November.
Over 500 delegates attended including club, county and provincial level GAA officials, central and local government officials, and four government ministers including Tánaiste Mary Coughlan TD, Minister for Social Development Margaret Ritchie MLA, Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Eamon Ó Cuiv, TD and Minister for Education, Catriona Ruane MLA who deputised for deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness who had to attend to urgent business at the last minute.
The focus of this year’s conference was “Enhancing Community Cohesion through the development of GAA club and volunteers”
GAA President, Nickey Brennan, and President-Elect, Christy Cooney were also present with Cooney outlining the key initiates from the new National GAA Strategy which will be launched on November 25th. This year the master of ceremonies was BBC presenter Lynnette Fay.
There where seven conference workshops this year, that included
- Pitch and Club House Development: This workshop hosted by Stephen McGeehan Operations Manager, Ulster GAA and Helen Donnelly Development Officer in Sport NI focused on the development of facilities at clubs. Sport NI recently announced that 14 GAA clubs have benefited from capital funding which will see the development of second pitches on their groups, the bids for funding were completed with the support from officials in Ulster GAA.
- Volunteer and Community Leadership: This workshop hosted by Ulster GAA Strategic Adviser Mark Conway and consultant John O’Neill from the Venture I Network looked at the important role that volunteer GAA officials play in the development of community capacity building. The workshop gave an overview of the job roles of club executive officers and will highlighted the importance of club planning and community consultation.
- Urban Club Development: This workshop hosted by Ulster GAA Community Development Manager Ryan Feeney reviewed the new development initiatives that the GAA are establishing to support urban clubs in their ongoing development. The workshop gave case studies on successful urban GAA clubs and included testaments and ideas urban club officers.
- Child Protection at Club Level: Hosted by Geraldine McKavanagh, Child Protection Officer Ulster GAA. This workshop reviewed the recent changes to legislation that resulted in a review of the Child Protection procedures required by GAA clubs. This workshop also gave an overview of the important measures that each club must take to ensure that the GAA is compliant in this vital are of association business.
- Celebrating 125th Anniversary of the GAA at Club Level: Hosted by Ulster GAA 125 Committee member Donal McAnallen, this workshop suggested initiatives that clubs can “roll-out” as part of the anniversary celebrations.
- Women in the GAA: Hosted by Ulster GAA Health and Wellbeing Manager Aileen Tohill, this workshop highlighted the important role that women play in the association, it focused on the integration process that has been taking place in Ulster over the past three years and suggested club level initiatives that could increase female involvement in the GAA.
- Club Communication: Irish News “Against the breeze” columnist and reporter Paddy Heaney hosted this workshop which gave club volunteers advice on how to deal with the press and media, and suggested tips and pointers on how to better promote the club develop improve sponsorship coverage. The workshop also reviewed the development of the new national GAA brand as explained by David O’Connor from The Brand Union, which has resulted in new crests and branding for the entire association. This workshop gave clubs an overview of the new branding procedures and their relevance at club level.
The conference also held a one hour workshop as part of the consultation process for the new Ulster GAA strategy 2009-2015 were delegates could contribute to the development of the new strategy.
The conference also saw the launch of the new Ulster GAA Community Development Unit, which has been established to provide dedicated support for capacity building at club level, the new unit also, has responsibility for Community Outreach initiatives and strategic development across the province. The unit will be employing two new community development officers as part of a cross-jurisdictional initiative supported by the Department of Social Development and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.
Ulster GAA President Tom Daly highlighted the success of the conference “This years conference was an outstanding success and I am thankful to all the 500 plus delegates for attending the event and, I am confident that those present all got something from the day that will assist them in making the GAA better in both their club and community. I am also thankful to the government representatives including the Tánaiste, both Community Ministers and the Minister of Education for lending their support to the day. I would also thank the Irish News for their support in the organisation of the conference, they are an excellent corporate partner and I look forward to launch of the Irish News Club and Volunteer Awards in March”
Irish News editor Noel Doran said,“We are delighted to show our support for the conference as it is a major event for the GAA in Ulster. The conference objectives fit perfectly with the aspirations of the Irish News to create a healthy future for the GAA in Ulster.”
Éamon Ó Cuív TD, Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, who is also President of his local GAA club Naomh Pádraig CLG An Fhairche (Clonbur) Co. Galway said: “As a Minister with responsibility for community development I often use the G.A.A. at local level in particular, as one of the best examples of volunteering and community development across the island of Ireland. As a sporting organisation that is inclusive of all age groups and of both women and men, the G.A.A. can play an increasingly key role in integrating all of our communities and in the integration of new residents to our shores.”
Commenting on the new initiatives Minister for Social Development Margaret Ritchie MLA said: “The GAA in Ireland occupies a special place in the social and community life of many towns and villages. It is Ireland’s largest amateur sporting, community and cultural organisation. I am committed to the ‘shared future’ and ‘good relations’ agenda sitting at the heart of all social policy. Segregation and polarisation has cost us dearly in economic, but more importantly, in social terms. Today, I am thankful to say that the binds of division are dissolving. I want to take this opportunity to encourage you in the work you are taking forward to strengthen community cohesion. The GAA has always shown leadership at community level and long may this continue.”
Conference presentations and resources are available on the Ulster GAA Club Maith web-site www.ulster.gaa.ie/club-maith
Additionally photos and video reports on the conference are available on the Irish News web-site www.irishnews.com/gaaconference