It was a fairly low key Ulster Convention in Newry’s Canal Court Hotel on Saturday last with little by way of controversy, no elections and only one notice of motion from a County Committee. Prior to the start of convention the chairman of Down county Board Kevin Bell welcomed delegates to Convention while the chairman of Newry and Mourne District Council Michael Toal in welcoming delegates to the city spoke of the positive role that the GAA had played in Newry achieving city status and the benefits that the refurbished Pairc Esler would be to the local economy. Special guest on the day was the newly appointed Director General of the GAA, Paraic Duffy and in his address he spoke of the challenges that the GAA had faced in Ulster especially in more recent times, problems that he said “were different from those facing the association in other parts of the country”. He complimented the council and its officials on the courageous decisions they had taken through difficult times. He paid a warm tribute to the work of the council in acknowledging that the GAA in the rest of the country had a lot to learn from Ulster in how they had implemented whole new approaches in addressing things like the legislation on child protection, their approach to strategic planning and governance and he assured delegates that he would be seeking help from Ulster as he has put the completion of a strategic plan for the whole association at the top of his agenda. It was however crucial he told delegates “that the GAA retains its foremost position as the leading sporting brand in the country” but also of retaining the position whereby every club will be at the heart of their communities”. There was good news in his address for Antrim as he would be meeting representatives from that county along with the chairman and secretary of the Ulster Council to discuss the development of structures that would meet the needs of hurling in the province and especially the needs of Antrim. He did however express concern at how certain issues are debated in the association and called for future debate on association issues to be held in the right fora. Following his address Tom Daly made a special presentation to Paraic Duffy to mark his accession to the position of the Director General.
On the financial side overall income was up a little on 2006 despite a decrease in gate receipts although expenditure was also down by a small margin. Income had been affected by the robbery that had taken place after a game in Casement Park.
In a wide-ranging address president Tom Daly reviewed all aspects of the association in the province and reflected on how successful teams from the province had been both in inter-county and in schools and colleges competitions. He spoke of the need for sustaining their level of input into hurling development in the province and on the need for the association to be proactive in not only providing facilities for Gaelic Games but in insisting that public funded sports developments should be able to accommodate our games. He expressed concern and regret at the non-implementation of the Irish Language Act which he said was “not acceptable” and assured delegates that the council would be insisting wherever possible that the legislation be proceeded with. Regarding the coverage of the games he called on BBC Radio to “move up from an opt out medium wave channel to mainstream broadcasting and said that it was essential that the TV coverage of matches would see all games free to air.
He spoke also of the international dimension where Ulster was twinned with Canada and Britain but he expressed reservations on the re-establishment of the International Rules series with Australia, his main concerns being player welfare and discipline and he was also critical of the aggressive targeting of young GAA players by the AFL. Regarding the “Maze Project” he told delegates that the Ulster Council had been invited to take part in this project but assured Ulster Convention that the council had no involvement on the political side of the debate or on any impending or forthcoming political decisions. On the question of the grants to GAA players he was adamant that the system as drawn up would mean that the payment of those monies was compliant with Rule 11 as was a signed statement from the chairman, secretary and treasurer of the council that all monies dispersed by them as expenses payments were compliant with the same rule. Integration and diversity would be a part and parcel of going forward but a number of delegates and officers affirmed the position that this should not dilute the core values of the association.
In conclusion he paid attributed to the former director-general of the GAA Liam Mulvihill whose tribute dinner had taken place in Dublin the previous night and he also thanked Miceál Greenan for his service to the Council both as a delegate from Cavan and his 10 years service as an officer of the council.
Motions: Only one motion was tabled for Convention with Tyrone requesting the “Ulster Council to review the organisation of the Dr McKenna Cup competition and the participation within that competition of teams representing Higher Education establishments”. The matter was not discussed on the day but it will be referred to the incoming Ulster Council and Tyrone were assured that there would be a full debate on the matter at the next meeting of the Ulster Competitions Control Committee.
Convention also saw the launch of the new Ulster Council GAA website and the announcement that Catherine O’Hara, Ulster Camogie Council, who was present at convention as a guest was launching her campaign for election as the national president of the Camogie Association.
Officers Elected: All out going officers were returned unopposed. President: Tom Daly (Donegal), V President Aogan Farrell (Cavan), Treasurer: Martin McAviney (Monaghan), PRO: Michael Hassan (Antrim).
(Report Courtesy of JP Graham)