The GAA must take a “real zero tolerance” approach to violence at underage matches, according to former president Seán Kelly.
He was speaking after an alleged assault on a child at a children’s sports event in Tipperary on Saturday.
Gardaí are investigating reports a man grabbed a child by the neck during an under-nines hurling blitz at Dr Morris Park in Thurles.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Ireland South MEP and former GAA president Seán Kelly said the organisation needs to put much stronger penalties in place, “particularly at underage level”.
“It is just not acceptable under any circumstances for adults to be abusing young people, either physically or verbally at underage matches,” he said.
“I think we need to get a grip on that and have much stronger penalties for any incidents of that nature at underage level.”
There have been several reports of violent incidents at GAA matches in recent months and Mr Kelly said the organisation has a responsibility to ensure violence does not become the norm “in any shape or form” in the sport.
“We need to increase penalties and establish a real zero tolerance of any kind of abuse of this nature,” he said.
Mr Kelly said the GAA should also encourage all clubs to establish clear codes of conduct that all players, mentors and family members must follow.
“I think it has to start at club level because the clubs will know those who are hotheads, essentially,” he said. “Because this won’t happen in just one game. This will probably be continuous.”
Mr Kelly said individual clubs are best placed to change the culture.
“If we’re really to stamp this out, it has to be done internally in the clubs,” he said.
“The club will know [its members] and the club has to take responsibility and tell these people this behaviour is not good enough, it is damaging our image, it is very unfair on our young players and if you can’t behave yourself, it would be better if you stayed away from the games.”
In a statement, Gardaí said: “Gardaí at Thurles were alerted shortly after 1pm on Saturday, 15th October 2022, following an incident of alleged assault at a children's sports event in Thurles.”
“Enquires into the matter are ongoing. As the incident involves young persons, An Garda Síochána will not be commenting further at this time.”
You can listen back to Mr Kelly here: