Friday 24 January 2020

Mayo GAA threatened with High Court injunction as governance row takes fresh twist

The Mayo County Board have been threatened with legal action
The Mayo County Board have been threatened with legal action
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Mayo GAA's beleaguered county board has been threatened with High Court injunction proceedings after excluding a man from running for office.

The legal threat from Michael Gallagher is the latest twist in the ongoing governance row which has engulfed the board.

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It comes as its officers are due to meet officials from the Connacht Council and Central Council to discuss a dispute which has seen a supporters' group withhold €250,000 in funding amid concern over governance structures.

Ballycroy GAA club member and sports journalist Gallagher had been seeking to run for the position of PRO on the county board.

Nominations for the county convention closed at the weekend.

But Gallagher was informed on Sunday night his nomination had not been accepted due to a technicality.

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The rule quoted said only a full member who had paid their annual club subscription prior to March 31 was eligible to vote at, nominate for, or seek election to the executive committee.

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Mayo county board secretary Dermot Butler later clarified in an email to Ballycroy GAA on Monday that Gallagher was deemed ineligible under a different, but similarly worded, rule.

In an interview with OTB AM show, Gallagher described the decision as "devastating initially".

He said that following discussions with his family, he had decided to "go legal on this".

"And if we have to take out an injunction to stop the AGM, we will do that as well," he told the show.

Gallagher is not linked to the Mayo GAA International Supporters Foundation, which has been raising a range of concerns over governance in the county in recent months.

But he claimed he had been "targeted from way out" due to his own criticisms of GAA officialdom in the county.

"I am a journalist for the last 20 years. I would be very straight. I would be honest. I have always said what I thought of the shenanigans that have gone on in Mayo GAA," he said.

Gallagher does not dispute the existence of the rule under which he was excluded from running.

But he claims that in practice it has not been used in recent years and that he is being treated differently from others who have sought election in that time.

"We have concrete information in our hands that this was not the way the rule was enforced for the past decade," he said.

Gallagher claimed he was being "singled out for different treatment". He also claimed the county board didn't have "a legal leg to stand on".

Gallagher said he was now asking the county board to "stand back from their decision on Sunday night" and reinstated him in the electoral race.

The journalist said he was aware of the potential costs involved if he is to press ahead with a legal challenge.

"But we are very confident we are going to win, so it will cost a lot of money to the Mayo county board," he said.

The row follows weeks of turmoil surrounding the supporters foundation's row with the county board.

The controversy has prompted the intervention of GAA director general Tom Ryan.

Following discussions with Ryan, the Connacht Council exercised its powers to instruct Mayo county board officers to attend a meeting with Central Council and Connacht Council officers.

A letter from the Connacht Council said the purpose of the meeting was "to scope the full extent of the problem and to help the county committee to reach a solution that will be sustainable into the future".

The foundation's chairman, English-born millionaire options market trader Tim O'Leary, is concerned about how a personal donation of €150,000 was spent.

The money was given towards the preparation of the Mayo senior footballers in 2018 was spent. But Mr O'Leary says receipts supplied to him did not reflect the terms attached to the donation.

The foundation is currently withholding €250,000 raised at a gala dinner in New York last May.

The money is to be put towards the creation of a centre of excellence and an academy, but was withheld after no business plans were provided to the foundation.

The Mayo County Board have been contacted for comment on the matter and we are awaiting a response.

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