Monday 19 August 2019

Linking funds to gender quotas 'grossly unfair'

Senior Cork County Board member Tracey Kennedy says quotas are a ‘necessary evil’. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Senior Cork County Board member Tracey Kennedy says quotas are a ‘necessary evil’. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Cormac McQuinn, Alan O'Keeffe and Gavin White

Cutting funds to sports bodies for failing to reach gender quotas would be "grossly unfair" at organisations where there's no discrimination, a top GAA official has warned.

Dublin GAA County Board chairman Seán Shanley said he wouldn't like to see anything "imposed" on sports.

Meanwhile, the second most senior official in Cork, Tracey Kennedy said she faced no obstacles to getting her job, but suggested that gender quotas may be a "necessary evil" to "kick-start" change.

Junior Sports Minister Patrick O'Donovan has sparked a massive debate with his new proposal. It would cut funding allocated by the Sport Ireland agency to sporting organisations that fail to comply with new rules requiring 30pc of national boards' membership to be women.

The senior minister in the department, Shane Ross is understood to be supportive of the plan and has invited representatives of sporting bodies to a meeting to discuss the proposals on Friday.

"I think it should be a natural process, said Mr Shanley. "As they say, the cream will come to the top," adding that the GAA had encouraged the involvement of women in and he expected more would reach senior roles nationally.

Read more: First female county boss: women don't need gender quota to reach top of GAA

Read more: Patrick O’Donovan: New sports rules will help to deliver more role models for girls

He said it would be "grossly unfair" to cut funds if there was no discrimination in an organisation.

Mr O'Donovan said he had no interest in any "punishment" for sporting organisations. "All observations will be taken into account".

Cork's vice-chairperson Ms Kennedy said: "I couldn't ever say I've had any obstacle put in my way in the GAA because I'm a woman."

However, she believes gender quotas generally may be a "necessary evil" to bring greater diversity to reflect society.

"I can see that they may be something that's necessary to kick-start the involvement of more women."

Ms Kennedy suggested this could be for a "limited period of time". She also said she'd be concerned about any cut in funding to the GAA "given the good it does".

Kilkenny hurling boss Brian Cody said there were varying opinions about gender quotas. He added: "It's about talent really. You'd be hoping for talented people to fill those positions. There's absolutely huge talent with females as well as the men."

Mr O'Donovan said he was "delighted" at the conversation that had arisen from his proposal. He felt that for too long sporting organisations had been "one of the last remaining glass ceilings"

He said he anticipated a lot of the reaction. "Ultimately, I hope that our sporting organisations, and sport in general, looks on a merit basis, providing an opportunity for women to play a much greater role in the leadership of Irish sport."

A spokesman at the Department of Sport said a consultation process had begun on the proposal.

It is understood that sporting bodies were not consulted on the idea before it was revealed in the Irish Independent on Monday.

Irish Independent

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