The GAA needs more money if gender equality is to be achieved, the organisation’s former President Liam O’Neill has claimed.
Sporting organisations that do not facilitate equal access for both men and women’s teams will have State funding completely withdrawn, Minister Thomas Byrne recently announced.
The Minister said he has received concerning reports of men’s teams often being given priority to facilities at the expense of female teams.
Mr O’Neill agrees with Minister Byrne’s diagnosis but disagrees strongly with his proposed solution.
“The Minister is saying that he’s going to cut funding,” he said.
“The Minister needs to realise in order to [foster equality] investment has to be made and it would be far better for the Minister, in my opinion, to say, ‘I’m going to work with the GAA… and make sure they have grants, that the have enough money to make their facilities female-friendly.’”
The key problem, Mr O’Neill feels, is that clubs often do not have the large facilities for both men and women’s teams.
“You can’t have women and men using the facilities immediately after each other for privacy, for dignity, for all sorts of reasons,” he said.
“You go to a county ground and you go to a dressing room - like we have at Croke Park - [and there’s] Dressing Room 1, 2, 3 and 4 with showers in 3 and 4.
“You can’t have two opposing teams using dressing rooms side by side, so it’s normal [they use] 1 and 4 and then 2, 3 for the second game.
“There’s a switchover where you have to clear out dressing rooms and you have to make sure no male has access to an area being used by a female - and that means making more dressing rooms.”
Mr O’Neill admits that in the past many senior figures in the GAA had a lack of interest in Ladies’ Football and camogie but thinks those days have been consigned to history.
“Everyone wants to see females and males treated equally and with equal dignity,” he said.
“The Minister talks about using his carrot and stick, he’d be better off putting his stick aside and incentivising people and saying, ‘I’m going to work with you.’”
By the end of 2023, sports bodies will also have their funding cut unless 40% of their governing board is female.
Main image: Women playing football in Donegal. Picture by: Alamy.com