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Sun 29-Apr-2007 22:50
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The Bull, The Bird and Nick E fall out over the Field
No one should be the least bit surprised that John O’Donoghue, Minister for Bull, Sport and Whatever-Yer-Havin-Yerself, has fallen out with the GAA over the proposal for payment of expenses grants to senior inter-county players, writes An Fear Rua …
The Bull has fallen out with the GPA as well, except The Bird Farrell and the lads don’t seem to realise this. The GPA’s response to the Bull’s statement of rejection – for, stripped of its diplomatic civil servicese, that’s what it was – could best be described as ‘Political Negotiation for Slow Learners’.
No government could have agreed to the disbursement of taxpayers’ money on a grants scheme that was confined to males, confined to one sport and one sporting association. Even a first year student of constitutional or administrative law could have sussed that one out. Any government funded scheme would have to be gender neutral and – theoretically at least – open to players of all associations. Even if that obstacle were not there, the GAA were not prepared to agree to ‘laundering’ taxpayers’ money received for capital investment into paying players’ expenses.
We know whereof we speak. An Fear Rua was the first person in this long running debate to identify generous re-imbursement of expenses as the solution to the legitimate aspirations of senior players for recompense for the effort they put and the entertainment they provide for the rest of us. It took some time to wean the GPA away from the Charlie McCreevy-inspired cul de sac of so-called tax ‘breaks’ for players. Tax ‘breaks’ on non-existent tax on non-existent income from
players. Good man, Charlie! Now, you see one of the reasons Bertie felt the need to shunt him off to Brussels.
Next, we proposed the solution. A national recognition system for elite amateur sports people on the lines of the
payments for writers, artists and poets. This proposal has none of the disadvantages of the ‘tax break’ approach, nor any of the disadvantages of the recent GAA / GPA proposal but, indeed, has many distinct advantages. In theory, AFR’s proposed scheme – which we named
(the Irish word for ‘Award’ or ‘Recognition’) – would be open to all sports people. But in practice the vast bulk of people qualifying for a grant would be members of the GAA / GPA.
The clash of interpretation of words and events in the published statements from the Bull himself, Nick E Brennan and the Bird Farrell is quite astonishing. You’d have to wonder were they attending the same meetings or reading the same documents? Or was this all just some elaborate pre-election mating dance that the Bull – and, quite possibly, the GAA – knew was bound to fizzle out?
Labour’s Spokesperson on Sport, the wily former Chairman of Kildare County Board, Jack Wall TD, has adopted the
proposal as his party’s policy. It may yet become a policy of a new government. Either way, it remains the only viable way forward.
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