O'Neill warns rural clubs not to be pushed into knee-jerk amalgamation
GAA president Liam O'Neill has told clubs not to be panicked into amalgamations due to the recession.
With smaller clubs, in particular, badly hit by emigration, there's growing pressure to consider amalgamations, but O'Neill believes they should only apply as a very last resort.
"We should not have a knee-jerk reaction here. If you give away your club identity, you do it only once – you don't get it back. Clubs should bear that in mind before going down the amalgamation route. We should always remember that communities that were all but wiped out in the 1950s and again in the 1970s thrived again. Hopefully, that will happen again and communities will bounce back," he said.
O'Neill has appointed a special workgroup, chaired by former GAA president Joe McDonagh to examine the new challenges facing rural clubs and communities in a climate of recession, emigration de-population and withdrawal of funding.
"Joe and his workgroup will be tasked with finding out how we can enhance what we're doing and work on what we're not doing. I'm sending out a message by appointing someone like Joe McDonagh as chairman. He's a well-known figure who understands rural life. So do the others in the group. It's up to them to come up with ways of enhancing community life. If communities are sustained, we (GAA) are sustained so we have a role to play on a number of fronts," he said.
He fears that amalgamation will be seen as an easy option in some areas, even when it's not a viable solution.
"It depends what level you're talking about. If you're talking about a smaller club that would never aspire to winning a county title, amalgamating for the sake of it and doing away with the identity that being involved in a GAA club gives a community is too high a price to pay," he said.