'We welcome any chance to work with croke park'
The Equality Authority has responded to our coverage of a story regarding claims that the GAA's €8.75m player welfare deal with the Gaelic Players' Association (GPA) could be in breach of gender legislation.
The following is an edited version of a 1,015-word letter received from Brian Merriman, Head of Communications at the Equality Authority.
"Two articles appeared in the Irish Independent on Thursday, June 2 claiming to readers that the Equality Authority had written to the GAA 'informing them that the arrangement (with the GPA) contravenes gender legislation'. This easily verifiable fact is not true. The Equality Authority has not written to the GAA on any such matter.
Your correspondent subsequently found the Equality Authority 'guilty' of reaching 'a new landmark in common sense bashing' by allegedly querying the GAA over its player-welfare arrangements with the GPA. As we have not written to the GAA on this matter, the extensive article 'bashing' the EA is also presented on a deeply flawed and unfair basis. It also clearly misses the point.
The facts of the matter are: a member of the media put in a Freedom of Information request to the Equality Authority seeking correspondence between the Equality Authority and the GAA since January 2011. As a State body covered by the FOI Act we were required to comply with that lawful request.
GAA President, Christy Cooney, took the most welcome initiative of establishing an Inclusion and Integration Committee and the Equality Authority was very pleased to accept an invitation to join this group. In the course of this committee's deliberations, the membership decided to write to the President and invite him to discuss a number of matters including how the GAA communicates its work on diversity and the remit of the GPA scheme.
The Equality Authority representative who sits on this committee contributed to the discussion, pointing out that there was a potential risk of the GPA scheme contravening gender legislation.
The Committee agreed following a 'frank discussion' that this matter should be brought to the attention of headquarters and invited the President to a meeting to further that discussion. The EA, as an active participant in this important committee, offered its best advice in pointing out that gender-based supports may also contravene the equality legislation. The committee decided to convey this view to the President by way of a letter signed by the Committee's Chairperson.
We welcome the opportunity to work with the GAA in progressing its inclusiveness policies in a meaningful way. We also welcome any opportunity of maximising the potential of this scheme to support the many young women in the GAA family who are 'breaking the mould' in encouraging high standard female participation in sport at a local and county level."