GAA refuses rule change for boys
Board votes to maintain contentious 'parish rule' despite row
THE GAA last night refused a rule change that would allow two schoolboys to play football with a club outside their parish.
A two-to-one majority of Kerry County Board voted that Padraic (14) and Colin (9) O'Sullivan cannot play football with the parish where they attend school.
The brothers had sought exemption from a GAA rule which requires that people can only play for the parish they live in.
Following the vote, the boys' mother Christine O'Sullivan vowed the issue was not over.
"How can they refuse children? It's disgraceful. I just can't believe they did that," she said.
Twenty-three delegates voted in favour of a rule change, and 59 voted against.
The family had taken their fight to the High Court where the case was settled last week.
The O'Sullivans live in the parish of Firies in Co Kerry, but their children attend school in Listry, a neighbouring parish.
They claimed they were being deprived of their right to play Gaelic football because they have been told they must play for Firies GAA club -- which is more than seven miles from their home in Ballytrasna, Faha, Killarney, Co Kerry. They want to play for Listry GAA club, which is just over a mile away.
The family said they never dreamed that they would be the focus of attention as the rest of the country eagerly awaited the result of this 'test case' on the parish rule.
"All we're looking for is for our boys to be able to play football with their friends," Mrs O'Sullivan said.
The boys' father Michael told a meeting of Kerry County Board last night that he was trying to do his best for his family.
"They already train and play challenge matches with their friends in Listry, but they're not allowed to play (on the team) with them," he said.
"At the centre of this dispute are children who cannot understand why they can't play football with a club where all their friends are playing -- especially when others in the same situation have been given an exemption."
Mr O'Sullivan appealed to delegates to accept his application. He said if the application was not allowed his sons would not be able to play football as they didn't want to play with Firies.
Through their mother, the boys had sued Peter Twiss in his capacity as secretary of the Kerry County Board.
Because they live in the parish of Firies, they had been told by the county board that they must play for Firies under the GAA's Rule 20, otherwise known as the 'parish rule'.
Under the High Court settlement, it was agreed a new vote would be taken at a meeting of the Kerry County Committee.
Delegates at last night's county board meeting warned that granting the derogation could open the floodgates for transfers.
Tom Kelleher, a delegate from Firies GAA, said Rule 20 had served the organisation well in stopping players from transferring to other clubs. He said the O'Sullivan family was very welcome at Firies GAA club.