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GAA will not tolerate Johnson 'snub'

A LEADING GAA official has warned there can be no repeat of the infamous 'Martin Johnson snub' if Croke Park is opened up to other sports.

Seamus Whelan, chairman of the Westmeath County Board, has also raised a question mark about Ireland's Call and is adamant Amhran na bhFiann must continue to be played before games in Croke Park.

When the English rugby team played Ireland in Lansdowne Road this year, Johnson refused to move his team to their allotted spot on the red carpet for meeting Mary McAleese, the President of Ireland.

Ireland then took up their spot further down the field, forcing President McAleese to walk off the red carpet to complete her job of meeting both teams.

It caused uproar, and Whelan has added to the debate in his address to the Westmeath GAA Convention.

"I would expect the Central Council to have their conditions of leasing, including the obvious fact that Amhran na bhFiann is our national anthem and that visiting teams be instructed to have appropriate respect for the head of our state, Uachtaran na hEireann," he warned.

Whelan says he has an open mind on the issue of Croke Park being opened up, but he indicated he wouldn't have a problem with soccer and rugby going into the venue.

"Blanket bans don't serve the GAA well. Central Council and the Management Committee should have the authority to make such decisions," he said.

"We would still be the masters of our own destiny and obviously we would give priority access to Gaelic games.

"Clearly, the potential financial gains from the rental fee would be of great assistance to the potentially crippling Croke Park debt."

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