Discipline Ballyragget GAA sex party players - says minister
Warning against witch-hunt after calls to ban GAA team
A government minister has intervened in the Ballyragget GAA lewd photographs scandal and said any players involved should be disciplined by their club.
However, Junior Sports Minister Brendan Griffin warned against subjecting the entire club to a "witch-hunt" and insisted the Kilkenny team should be allowed to continue competing in the Leinster Intermediate Hurling Championship.
The minister said the controversy, which saw naked women filmed and photographed with some of the team members, was "very regrettable" and said players needed to realise they were ambassadors for their sport.
"There's talk of throwing them out of the championship, but sport on the pitch is where you win or lose championships and I think that's where it should stay," Mr Griffin told the Sunday Independent.
"I think if there's discipline to be dished out, it should be done internally by the team manager or the trainer or possibly the club itself because, whether they like it or not, the club has been dragged down," he added.
Mr Griffin is the first Government politician to get involved in the controversy which gained national coverage and caused upset for the people of the small Kilkenny town. The scandal emerged last week when almost a dozen photographs and videos of a 21st birthday party, which took place in Fitzpatrick's Bar in Ballyragget, were shared between users of social media.
The images showed members of the local GAA team partying with two naked women in the pub. One of them appeared to show a man involved in a lewd act with one of the women.
The intermediate hurling team won the county championship the previous weekend and the trophy featured in several of the images circulated on social media.
Mr Griffin said he was especially disappointed to learn that the county trophy also featured in the images that were freely available to view on the internet last week.
"What people do in terms of their celebrations is ultimately their own business but I think it is very regrettable that the trophy was involved in the incidents, particularly when trophies are named in memory of people and it might be hurtful to family members," he said.
The minister said he believed the people involved "regret their actions" and have "learned their lesson" from the affair which had brought them national notoriety.
Yesterday, Ballyragget Parish Priest Fr Tommy Murphy urged parishioners involved in the controversy to attend confession but conceded that he did not think many of them would take up his offer.
"I don't think there's going to be a rush on confessions (but) if anyone wants to talk about it I would be very glad to talk to them," Fr Murphy said.
"There is salvation at the end of this," the priest added.
Meanwhile, Kilkenny GAA has launched an investigation into the incident, which took place last Tuesday.
The Kilkenny County Board has confirmed that it has met officials from the club and an investigation is ongoing.
"The Kilkenny County Committee can confirm that it is investigating an incident that took place on Tuesday night at a non-GAA event in Ballyragget," the statement read.
"County officers met with representatives of St Patrick's Ballyragget on Wednesday night and will review the findings in the coming days.
"There will be no further public comment at this time."
The team is due to face Kildare champions Ardclough in a Leinster intermediate game in Newbridge this Saturday.
A Garda investigation was launched into the incident last week and those who attended the party are expected to be questioned.
Social media material will also be examined by gardai investigating the case.
Gardai are seeking to establish if the women at the party were solicited for the purpose of prostitution.