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The facts about the GAA’s Rule 21

WHATEVER the political pedigree of former Galway GAA hurler and former National Uachtarán Cumann Lúthchleas, Joe McDonagh, it appears his appointment as Chief Executive of the new cross-Border Foras na Gaeilge has caused less ripples in Stormont than in Dublin power-sharing circles where another bureaucrat had been earmarked for the post.

McDonagh will go down in the history of Gaeldom as the man who tried to deliver the GAA, Crossmaglen and all, on Rule 21 even before the SDLP and other northern “moderates” accepted the new Police Service, or even stopped complaining that the old RUC (remember them?) never even apologised for the shooting of Aidan McAnespie on his way to a Gaelic football match a few years ago. Before they changed their stripes? Whether this was due to an “understanding” with Bertie and McCreevy about Croke Park funding is never going to be resolved. But given the campaigning nature of most journalists who wrote and spoke on RTÉ about this matter we should, perhaps, place the facts about Rule 21 on the record at this historic juncture.

There is one view that the media collectively failed again and again to print or read out the famous Rule 21, probably because modern journalistic practice prefers to bring in opinionated punters to tell us what they think it says rather than letting people decide for themselves. The ongoing professional failure of RTÉ in this regard may have been coloured somewhat just like “Articles 2 and 3” which the Stickie spinmen in Montrose always linked together and never discussed separately.

Rule 21 should also be seen in terms of the preceding rule 20 which (in translation} reads: “Clubs and counties shall insist that the first allegiance of their members is to the Association and its games, and may impose disciplinary measures for breaches of this rule.” No mention of any of the specific games, hurling, football or handball. Just as Rule 21 does not mention the RUC or any of the “security forces”.

The English version of Rule 21 does, however, mention the British armed forces and police and states that members of such armed bodies “shall not be eligible for membership of the Association”. It adds that “A member of the Association participating in dances or similar entertainment (singular) promoted by or under the patronage of such bodies shall incur suspension of at least twelve weeks”.

But curiously the first official Irish language version of Riail 21 (which reads like a bad translation of the English language version!) does not even mention “armed forces”, the RUC or any of the specific games, peil, iomáint/iománaíocht or liathróid láimhe. It did however adopt the same negative “Neamhinghlachtacht” rather than defining membership. It does state however “Níl comhalta d’fhórsaí na Breataine ná a cuid póilíní inghlachta i gcomhaltas an Chumainn”, adding “Cuirfear fiontraíocht 3 mhí ar a laghad” (not quite the same as “twelve weeks”) on members of the Association “a ghlacfaidh páirt i rince nó i gcaitheamh aimsire dá leithéid a chuirfear ar siúl ag a leithéidí d’aicmí nó daoine gcoimirce”.

Obviously a throwback to the days when the GAA was mainly funded by Irish-Ireland céilís and other West Brit bodies raised funds from dances or “similar entertainment” in competition with them, in the same way that we currently accept, even admire, the “competition” we see between rival commercial radio stations, not to mention the TV rights of soccer and other commercial enterprises or the massive commercial exploitation of traditional Irish music by commercial interests and recording companies that are as far from patriotic or voluntary effort as the GAA and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann used to be at lease.

One wonders why such broad historical and contextual issues got such little attention in the recent debates about Rule 21 rather than the politics of Northern Ireland policing and political matter in which the GAA should have no direct part.

It was interesting also to hear Pat Kenny and others in RTÉ entice those friendly GAA football fans in the RUC to declare their political allegiance to the Alliance Party on the airwaves. Without ever even considering a supplementary about the contemporary controversial decision of Alliance in Stormont to redefine themselves as “unionists pro tem” as required to do in order to ensure the survival of the rigged vote system of the new “Democratic Institutions”.
-- Seán Mac Domhnaill

Frank McGowan

THE death took place on November 29 at Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow of well-known Republican Frank McGowan. Frank was the living embodiment of the true Republican in exile whose dedication to the cause of Irish freedom never wavered in five decades of involvement.

Born in Glasgow in November 1920, Frank was an only child whose father was a native of Manorhamilton in Co Leitrim.

Frank joined the Gorbals-based James Connolly Cumann of Sinn Féin in 1938. The following year he enrolled in the Glasgow unit of Óglaigh na hÉireann. The English Campaign was underway and the army units in Scotland procured and sent supplies of bomb-making equipment to the units in England. As a consequence of this activity, several of the Glasgow Volunteers were arrested and imprisoned.

These men included Michael O’Hara, Edward Gill, Séamus Campbell, Terence McSherry, Seán Carson, Frank McNiece, Sam Kennedy, Peter Walsh and Joseph McLean. Many others including Frank McGowan escaped the police net and another unit was formed at the start of WWII. In 1942 Frank was made Quartermaster of the 21-man unit whose OC was Belfast-born optician Joe Kerr.

During the Resistance Campaign (1956-62), Frank was again active in the Glasgow unit which organised a number of successful raids for explosives. This was also a period when several Sinn Féin Cumainn were functioning in the city. Their main role was in organising céilidhs, commemorations and sales of the Republican paper, The United Irishman. Prominent figures in Sinn Féin included Tom Brady, Peter Marron, Joe Kerr and Felix Marron. Tom Brady played an active part in the epic years 1916-1922 and Seán O’Shea, who died in 1949, was President of Sinn Féin in Scotland for 31 years.

In the ensuing years Frank’s commitment to the cause of Irish freedom never faltered and he continued to play as active a role as his health would permit, including membership of the Francis Hughes Cumann of Republican Sinn Féin. In recognition of his unbroken service to the Republican Movement, Frank was honoured at the Annual Testimonial Dinner of CABHAIR in 1995.

Sincere sympathy is expressed to his wife Nora, to his sons Brian and Kevin, his daughters Noreen and Margaret and all of his family.

Gene McGillicuddy

THE death took place at Tralee General Hospital on December 4 of Gene McGillicuddy of Gortnagowna, Glencar, Co Kerry. Born into a large family of five boys and four girls, the McGillicuddys were steeped in the old Republican tradition of Kerry. Their uncles Joe and Séamus Taylor had given their lives for the 32-County Irish Republic back in the 1920s. Gene’s sister Áine, who was married to Charlie Dineen, had passed away on November 6.

His two brothers Denis and Paul and brother-in-law Charlie Dineen had each served ten years in jail in England arising out of the Bombing Campaign of 1939-40. Gene was interned in the Curragh Concentration Camp for a number of years.

Gene himself was an active Volunteer from his youth and remained true to the ideals of Pearse, Connolly and his uncles Joe and Séamus. His remains were removed from Tralee General on December 5. At the funeral a Republican Sinn Féin guard of honour accompanied the Tricolour-draped coffin from the church to the little churchyard on the hillside above Glencar.

The guard of honour was led on the three-mile march by Gene’s life-long friend and comrade Dan Keating, who was just three weeks short of his 100th birthday. It was just unbelievable to see this marvellous man stride out and keep step on this final journey to the resting-place of his comrade.

Gene McGillicuddy, who was a stonemason by trade, and indulged in a bit of fishing, was a true and uncompromising Republican and under no circumstances would he approve of the “shoneen”1 actions of one member of his family as the remains were taken from the hearse at the graveyard. The Tricolour was removed at the graveside, but the full Republican ceremony was curtailed as a result of the “shoneen” action.

Republican Sinn Féin in Kerry came to pay tribute and due respect to a man who served the Republican Movement well and stood firmly by the Proclamation of 1916 all his long life.

We in Republican Sinn Féin in Kerry will finish our ceremony at the graveside of Gene McGillicuddy in due course.

Gene was predeceased by his wife Kathleen, is survived by his brother Michael, sisters Margaret, Mary and Kathleen, six sons, and two daughters, grandchildren and all relatives to whom sincere sympathy is extended by the Republican Movement in Kerry.
1 “Shoneen” – slave-minded quisling ashamed of ancestors and what they stood for.

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