THE recent furore over the Louth Minor Board's future again weighed heavily on proceedings at Louth GAA's Annual Convention in Darver Castle on Monday night.
County chairman Padraic O'Connor issued a stark warning to clubs or individuals intent on challenging the manner in which sub-committees will be appointed in 2013 and insisted that the outgoing Minor Committee were in breach of GAA rules by holding elections at their end-of-year meeting last Thursday.
In a wide-ranging speech the Chairman addressed issues such as county teams, club development and child protection and also revealed details of Louth GAA's involvement in next year's 'Gathering' initiative.
The St Patrick's clubman also discussed Louth's propsed new joint stadium venture with DkIT and lamented the demise of the Louth Supporter's Club last month, however, it the recent minor board wranglings dominated his address and was the main talking point on the night.
'We are all here in Louth for the same reason, to promote our national games and culture, with everybody doing their best on a totally voluntary basis', The chairman stated. 'But because of the actions of a few the attention, once again tonight, is not where it should be, concentrating on developments in coaching and games, football, hurling or our new stadium.
'Instead I must again explain the procedural changes regarding the implementation of Rule 3.21, 3.22 and Bye Law number eight, Coiste Choandae Lu. On advice from an Uachtarain Liam O'Neill, Ard Stiurthoir, Paraic Duffy and Central Council we were advised that all sub-committees must be appointed and not elected as in previous years.
'This point was brought to Central Council's attention by Uachtarain Liam O'Neill and we were instructed by them to get our house in order. The rule in question was discussed by the county management committee and county commitee on numerous occasions, but finally at the November meeting of the county committee - at which club chairmen and secretaries were present - it was agreed after lengthy discussions that all sub committees must be appointed and not elected.
'All sub-committees and clubs were advised of this decision and invited tto attend a meeting with management should they require clarification on the ruling - none did.
'It is not open to any member of our Association to interpret any rule as they see fit. All officers, sub-committees and indeed, the county committee, must apply the rules as directed and I stress MUST. If every committee decided to put their own interpretation on the rules we would have chaos, not only in Louth, but countrywide.
'As Louth county board chairman my responsibilities are to ensure these rules are upheld and implemented in full by all sub-committees, players and members of the Association.
'Some groups or individuals may not agree with their application, and that of course is their right to do so, but by adopting that stance they are excluding themselves from our Association and can no longer take part in its workings or structures in any way. I cannot accept an officer, or sub-committee, or club ignoring rules or bye-laws, or interpreting them in a different manner than that which is laid down by Official Guide, bye-law or county committee.
'The manner in which the minor committee conducted their recent meeting/year-end review was against these guidelines and by holding nominations and elections they have broken the bye-laws as agreed by county committee and in my opinion are in interfering with the county committee, which they were advised not to do, but despite this they proceeded.
'Management and county cannot approve the nomination or appointment of any individual or group of individuals to act on any sub-committee if they believe those individuals cannot or will not accept the authority and implement the decisions taken by Louth GAA and its governing board.
'I am now confirming to you here tonight that the issue or reappointment of any sub-committee will be based on the conditions I've just mentioned and we will defend those decisions vigorously. Any club or member who wishes to challenge these decisions can, of course, take their case to the appropriate forum, but be aware we will not stand down from our current position and the full weight of the Louth GAA will be put behind the defence of our decision to defend the rules, regulations, integrity and authority of Louth GAA.
'We expect each chairman present here tonight to respect
these decisions and support them fully within your own clubs. And likewise, we expect each club to apply these decisions accordingly.
'A very small number of clubs have recently written to the county secretary nominating individuals for an in-coming committee en-bloc. This, I believe, is the result of a well-managed campaign by certain individuals and I am now advising clubs that their actions could be seen as interfering with the powers of the county committee and while I appreciate those clubs that have been involved may not realise this, I would ask that now that the situation has been clarified that you respect this advice and discontinue the practice.
'After this convention the powers of all sub-committees, and that includes the minor committee, pass to the incoming management committee. Correspondence on all matters should be forwarded to the county secretary until the new committees are appointed. The incoming management committee will meet to start the process of appinting these sub-committees for 2013 and as usual these will be put before the county committee for approval in January.
'There is a lot of mis-information out there about the application of this rule and let me assure delegates that there will be no change in the structure of any sub-commitee, absolutely no change. To change the structure of any committee would require us to change a bye-law at Convention and no such change is going to take place today.
'It is vitally important that each chairman, secretary and delegate brings this message back to your club, discuss the issues addressed with you executive and sub-committees and make the position absolutely clear.
'This issue has been going on long enough - I think it started in July - and has been discussed to the point of exhaustion, but tonight it ends here. There will be no further discussion on this matter, but as previously stated if any club or individual wants to appeal these decisions they are free to do so at the appropriate forum.'
On a lighter note, the chairman gave delegates an update on Louth's joint stadium proposal and insisted that the county management committee will do everything in its power to ensure the project doesn't saddle the association with unnecessary
'This time last year at convention we took a decision to proceed with a joint GAA stadium with DkiT by a majority of 82%, but in February DkIT requested that we await deliberations regarding the purchase of the JJB building at the Retail Park in Dundalk.
'DkIT have now advised us that they are in the final stages of those negotiations. In the meantime we approached Dundalk Town Council to have 10 acres of adjoining land transferred to the stadium plan.
'We are awaiting details of the Town Council's conditions presently. Stage two is then to ensure the grounds are suitable and commission a full site investigation. Simultaneously we will confirm a full price for the stadium based on current market costs and structure.
'The temptation might be to rush in and proceed with the project on a stage-by-stage basis, but before doing so we must ensure we have our overall costings and budgets in place.
'Dkit have assured us that in the event of the groudns adjoinng JJB not being suitable they will provide adequate grounds at the college campus.
'Presently a number of committees are being drawn up, which will consist of representatives of Louth GAA, Central Council, Leinster Council and DkIT.
'This project is one of the most important and expensive projects to be undertaken by Louth GAA in recent years and it takes place in very difficult times when our clubs and supporters have very little disposable income, so the responsibility rests with us to ensure that Louth GAA proceeds in a planned and structured fashion to ensure we do not leave a debt legacy in our trail.'
Fundraising was a common theme on the night with Aidan Berrill insisting it will even more important than ever in 2013.
Mr O'Connor echoed those sentiments and revealed he hopes some outgoing members of the now disbanded Louth Suporters Club will lend the board some expertise and advice.
'We all watched with great regret when the Louth Supporters Club disbanded last month due to a lack of personel to keep the flag flying within their committee. We regret their passing and thank them for their work and contribution to Louth GAA over the past 21 years.
'We need a supporters club in Louth and we do plan to hold detailed discussions with a number of outgoing officers to examine ways to move forward with a plan to provide the necessary personel and structures to assist with the ongoing challenges regarding fund-raising.
'In the meantime Louth GAA will continue to run buses to our National League and Championship matches, with the assistance of the 42 clubs. We will also hold an annual awards night for Louth GAA.'