Sunday 30 April 2017

Tributes flow for anti-Ban campaigner Tom Woulfe

GAA president Aogán O Fearghail (pictured) said Tom Woulfe had served the GAA in a variety of roles over a prolonged period
GAA president Aogán O Fearghail (pictured) said Tom Woulfe had served the GAA in a variety of roles over a prolonged period
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

GAA president Aogán O Fearghail has led the tributes to Tom Woulfe, who has died at the age of 99.

A native of Kerry, Tom spent most of his life in Dublin where he was a founder member of the Civil Service GAA club.

However, it was as a campaigner that he exerted most influence, making him a hugely significant figure in the Association's history.

In particular, his determined crusade to remove Rule 27 - The Ban - was central to bringing about a fundamental change of attitude in 1971.

For 69 years prior to that, the harsh terms of Rule 27 stipulated that a GAA member who played, attended or promoted soccer, rugby, cricket or hockey - so called foreign games - would be suspended.

It had led to a number of high-profile suspensions as late as the 1960s, including bans on Down football star Paddy Doherty for playing soccer and on famous Waterford hurler Tom Cheasty for attending a dance run by a soccer club.

Woulfe and like-minded individuals were dismayed by Rule 27, believing that it reflected badly on the GAA.

He first called for its removal in the late 1950s but it wasn't until 1971 that it was deleted from the rulebook at the GAA Congress in Belfast. Last year, he recalled the fascinating story behind the removal of the Ban in an interview with Caroline Murphy, which is available on YouTube.

O Fearghail said that Woulfe had served the GAA in a variety of roles over a prolonged period.

"Some of those contributions were high profile from the floor of Congress and had a major bearing on the direction of the GAA at national level. Others were away from the spotlight, none more so than his countless hours of dedication to the Civil Service Club in Dublin," he said.

Tom Woulfe's remains will repose at his home in Rathgar, Dublin 6 tomorrow (4-9pm). Funeral Mass on Monday in Terenure College Chapel at 11am.

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