Tuesday 23 April 2019

Paul Kimmage: 'My name is Ailbhe. I have been kicked out of Tulla United for two years now ...'

One family's decision to make a complaint against a coach in their children's soccer club led to the kids being kicked out amid a nightmarish five-year battle

Picture; Gerry Mooney
Picture; Gerry Mooney
Paul Kimmage

Paul Kimmage

"In just over a week's time, Clare soccer will play host to a week-long programme of events, which will be held across the county, to mark the staging of the Football Association of Ireland's annual general meeting in the county capital. Preparations for the event have been underway since this time last year and details of what promises to be a very busy week for all soccer people in the county were released this week.

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"President Paddy McCaul, CEO John Delaney, ambassadors Ray Houghton and John Aldridge, plus staff from the technical section of the FAI will be in Clare for the week, during which time they will visit a selection of clubs . . . On Tuesday July 12, the FAI group will visit Lees Road summer camp, Lifford, Coole FC, Mountshannon Celtic, Lough Derg FC, Bridge United and Tulla, where the official opening of the club's new astroturf facility will take place. The day will conclude with a social evening in Tulla."

The Clare Champion, June 30, 2011

There's a photo of The Kid on the Tulla United website on the day the Men in Suits were paraded through the town. He's sitting on the grass with some pals, drinking pop and eating sweets with a big toothy grin on his face. He was seven years old that afternoon and had been taken to The Cragg by his mother, Antoinette, for the grand unveiling of the club's new all-weather pitch.

Astroturf meant nothing to The Kid. He wasn't born when Ray Houghton put the ball in the England net, had never heard of Timmy Dooley or Michael Ring, and hadn't the slightest bit of interest that it was John Delaney who was cutting the ribbon. He was a kid who loved playing football with his friends and for the next four years it was all he wanted to know.

Then a coach at the club started swearing at them.

The Kid was upset so his mother reported it, and three years later, on a cold December morning in 2017, his sister came out of her room with a letter she had written on a sheet of A4:

The sports minister Michael Ring and FAI CEO John Delaney cut the ribbon at the opening of Tulla United’s new astro-turf pitch in 2011. Denis Corry is also in the picture.
The sports minister Michael Ring and FAI CEO John Delaney cut the ribbon at the opening of Tulla United’s new astro-turf pitch in 2011. Denis Corry is also in the picture.

Dear Jhon Delaney,

My name is Ailbhe Wrafter. I have been kicked out of tulla united for 2 years now. My brother was being shouted and cursed and wrongly treated at tulla united. We tried to talk to them but they said they wanted it in writing. So we put it down in writing. A year and a half later, we were kicked out. Now 2 years on, we've gotten nowhere . . . I was in Fourth class kicked when kicked out. I am now in sixth class and understand all this better. We've been bullied for 2 years and I, personally am sick of it. I just want to be back playing the sport I love. Im not a fan of camogie, so I don't want to play a sport. But please consider what I have put down in this letter.

Ailbhe Wrafter. Aged 12.

John Delaney has always been crystal-clear on the FAI's commitment and duty of care to kids like Ailbhe. "We are one of the most inclusive organisations in the country and our approach to the game is that everybody has the right to play, irrespective of ability, disability, colour, creed or sex," he told an Oireachtas committee in 2017.

"The ethos and thinking behind the removal of win at all costs, particularly at the key younger level, is to give every kid the ability to love the ball. They are taught to pass it and not kick it long, which was the approach when I was growing up. There is a rolling on and off of substitutes so every kid can play and we do not keep competitive tables until the age of 12, which is something we feel strongly about.

"It is outlined in our player development plan, which was introduced recently under our technical director, Mr Ruud Dokter. Effectively, this allows kids to enjoy playing football. It gets competitive later in life but when they are younger they should really enjoy the experience and learn not to be afraid to make a mistake with a football."

Delaney is also a great friend of Ailbhe's club, Tulla United, and a sponsor (he's thanked on page 1) of their impressive 'Code of Ethics & Policy Guidelines' which state: "All children and young people who participate in soccer should be able to do so in a safe and enjoyable environment. While doing so, they should be protected from any form of abuse be it physical, emotional, sexual, neglect or bullying. The responsibility for protecting children lies with all adults involved in this Club and in soccer in general."

But this is how it really works.

 

1

Antoinette Wrafter has often joked that she knows how it feels to be a boy. The third youngest of Bunny Maloney's ten kids, she grew up on the streets of Ennis pretending she was like her brothers and rebelling any time her mother put her in a dress, which she would instantly soil by diving in the garden or climbing a tree.

'Anto' preferred jeans.

Ailbhe Wrafter’s letter to John Delaney in December 2017.
Ailbhe Wrafter’s letter to John Delaney in December 2017.

Sport was a passion. One of the best juvenile swimmers in Munster, she was a good runner, played camogie like a hurler, and still cherishes the day she was invited to play soccer for the Avenue United boys. "I'm not a tough woman but I can be tough," she says. "I grew up in a house where, if it wasn't broken and you weren't bleeding, you were all right to go. And we brought the kids up the same."

Her husband, Noel - the son of a mother from Ennis and a father from Tullamore - was born in New York but spent his early childhood in Dublin, where his father worked for AnCO in Ballsbridge until a tragic accident in 1975 when he was killed in a car crash coming home from work.

"I was seven years old but it's still the most life-altering change ever in my life," Noel says. "It was impressed on me by relations that I was now the man of the house. What made it even harder was that we, as kids, were not allowed to attend the funeral so we never got closure."

His mother moved them home to Ennis for his teenage years. He left for London in 1989 and had spent eight years working as a facilities manager before meeting Antoinette in 'The Queens' one night on a brief trip home. They married in 2001, moved to Tulla a year later, and 'The Kid' was born a year after that. In 2005, Antoinette gave birth to Ailbhe.

"I'm not one of these women that crib about everything and go knocking on doors: 'Your Johnny is after pushing my Johnny! My Johnny would never do that'," Antoinette says. "I know exactly what my son is like. He is capable of anything and everything but he's a good boy. And I know when he is telling me the truth."

It was a Saturday afternoon in the summer of 2014 when he sent the first signals that something was wrong. There was a game on at Tulla and she was pushing him to get ready but he wanted to stay at home. He missed another game a week later, and another the week after that, and soon his mother had had enough: "Shake it off! Come on! Let's go."

"I'm not going," he replied.

"What do you mean?"

"I don't want to go."

"Why?"

"I DON'T WANT TO GO!"

The Kid was hyperventilating.

She gave him a hug and waited for the storm to pass and the Kid explained that his problem was the coach. "He's mean to us," he said. "He keeps putting us down."

"Do you want me to talk to him?"

"No," he insisted. "That will only make it worse."

"So what do you want me to do?"

"I don't know," he replied. "I just won't go."

"But that's not a solution either," she said.

Then she thought of one he agreed with.

Denis Corry was the go-to man at Tulla. A man of many hats, he was the treasurer, the Child Welfare Officer, the Clare Schoolboys Soccer League (CSSL) delegate, a member of the Board of Trustees and so much more.

The membership?

You saw Denis.

The summer camp?

You saw Denis.

The Easter camp?

You saw Denis.

The club draw?

You saw Denis.

The Kid's upset?

You saw Denis.

She saw him that afternoon.

It was a ten-minute drive to Corry's home in Tulla. He invited her into the front room and she voiced her concern. He told her there had been other complaints. The conversation was conciliatory. "I didn't want to make a big deal of it," she says. "I told him: 'You're a teacher, and I used to teach swimming, and we can all lose the run of ourselves. The kids are upset. He needs to think about what he's saying to them. So just have a quiet word and tell him to calm the fuck down'."

Corry wanted it in writing.

"Why?" she asked.

Because he couldn't do anything unless she put it in writing, he said.

"Okay," she said. "That's fine."

She drove home and had a long chat with Noel that night. Should they put it in writing? Did they want to make it official? She wasn't sure. So they waited a couple of days and sat down with The Kid again.

2

Dear Denis,

Following on from our conversation on Saturday 6th of September last I wish to submit the following letter of complaint.

Over the past year (The Coach) has been training our son in soccer every Saturday and Thursday. As time has progressed we have become more unsatisfied with his manner and the way he speaks to our son and the other players. Our son has left matches crying because of the way he has been spoken to after a game. (The Coach) has told them they did not play to 100% and that is why they have lost. He has been telling them that he is putting his best team on the field while looking at the subs - generally (The Kid) and the same few others. During training sessions he swears at them and puts them down. His actions are becoming worse and therefore our son (The Kid) will not return to soccer because of him. He in fact cries and asks not to go. The child loves the game and if we got notification that (The Coach) will not be at training then (The Kid) will attend soccer training or matches whole heartedly.

These are children and telling them they are not playing well and not good enough to start is not a way to develop young and influential children. He is not fulfilling his role as a coach. According to the FAI website: "The Football Association of Ireland is committed to ensuring that children can participate in all football activities in a safe environment. Football provides an excellent opportunity to learn new skills, become more confident and maximise potential as members of teams and as individuals. Participation in football should be fun, enjoyable and provide a platform to learn and develop life skills, make new friends and enhance personal growth. The safety and welfare of children is paramount."

This however is not the way (The Coach) trains and encourages any of the players. My child has now stopped doing other sports because he believes he is not good enough anymore. We as parents have vowed to watch over and protect our children, we will help them develop and encourage new learning opportunities but the last number of months anything we have been teaching has been reversed by one person's actions. This is not acceptable and will not be tolerated any more.

You asked me if we had approached (The Coach) about all this and I told you he was not approachable, we still feel the same way and this is why we are dealing with you on this matter, you are after all the Child Welfare Officer of the Tulla United Club. We wish this matter to be addressed as soon as possible and want to be fully informed of any decision that will be made.

My husband and I can be contacted on the following numbers . . .

Yours Sincerely

Antoinette Wrafter

3

Page 8 of the Tulla United Code of Ethics & Policy Guidelines states:

"While many concerns can be dealt with in an informal manner to the satisfaction of all concerned, it is advisable that detailed records are maintained in respect of all complaints and that parties are advised of the Club's formal complaints.

Step One

Any person who has a complaint or concern should bring it to the attention of the secretary of Tulla Soccer Club. The complaint or concern should be in writing and should outline all relevant details and other parties involved.

Step Two

The complaint or concern will then be brought to the attention of the Chairperson who will convene the disciplinary committee (three members) and appoint a Chairperson of that Committee unless the complaint or concern relates to a child abuse matter or criminal offence that meets the criteria for formal reporting to the statutory authorities.

Step Three

The Disciplinary Committee will furnish any individual/s with details of the complaint being made against them and afford them the opportunity of providing a response either verbally or in writing. In the event of a complaint against a child, the parents/guardians shall be informed and advised of the process.

Step Four

The Disciplinary Committee will then hear the case of all parties involved and decide if a Club rule or regulation has been infringed.

Step Five

The Disciplinary Committee will then inform in writing those involved of its decision and any sanctions if any that are to be imposed. This notification should be in writing, setting out the reasons for the sanction.

Step Six

Any party unhappy with the findings of the Disciplinary Committee can appeal the decision in writing to their respective League as per League Rules.

4

The procedures laid down to deal with complaints at Tulla United are clear and unambiguous. The Wrafters had no idea what they were but had a sense pretty quickly they were travelling hors-piste.

It started with a phone call, five days after Antoinette had delivered the complaint. "I was at the checkout in Aldi," she recalls. "I didn't know the number so I answered. It was Denis Corry. He said: 'I just want to talk to you about the letter you dropped in. I'm very surprised. Your letter didn't say how good the club are, and how good (The Coach) is.' I said, 'I'm sorry Denis. You asked for a letter of complaint, not a letter of commendation.' He said: 'Well, I was very disappointed you didn't put any of those points down.' I said, 'I didn't think I needed to.'"

She drove home and Noel was baffled. Why did he ask for it in writing? What happened with the other complaints? Three days later, she wrote to Corry again:

"Further to our conversation on Saturday 20th September last I wish to state that I would like for you to go ahead and approach (The Coach) regarding the letter of complaint. I would be very much obliged then if my husband or I be contacted with the outcome and hopefully proceed to the next stage. Even though we have written that letter you did state that you have had other complaints in the last 12 to 18 months. Have those issues been addressed and are they of the same complaints?

"Furthermore, you stated then even though we sent you an official letter of complaint as requested by yourself, you did note that we did not mention his achievements and dedication with the club? The brief from you was to state our grievance in writing and nothing was mentioned to that effect.

"Finally, I would like this to be resolved as (The Kid) is losing out and his fellow players are missing him."

A week later, on September 29, Corry sent a cover note ('Antoinette, please find enclosed') with a 'copy' of a letter from the coach, who expressed surprise at the complaint:

"We were not aware of any problems you may have had, and because he has not attended many training sessions - 3 since 7th June and unavailable for the last 8 games - it may have escaped our notice. We will certainly address any issues, where possible, you have in this regard."

He also addressed the issue of language:

"With regard to the issue of bad language, it is certainly not my way, nor is it my intention to use any expletives in front of the youths. This is a policy which I've always adhered to and if it happened on any occasion, I deeply regret it. I can assure you, that, should I have used an expletive, it was never, ever, directed at an individual."

That in itself was a fair response, and it probably would have ended there, but five days later the coach invited parents to vote on whether they wanted him to remain. The Wrafters were not invited.

On October 10, Corry invited the Wrafters to meet with him at the club. When they had finished and had gone through the issues again, he agreed to meet 'The Kid', who had been sitting outside in the car. Rule 5.3.1 of the FAI's Concern/Complaints Policy is an instruction on how to respond to a disclosure from a child.

Record exactly what has been said as soon as possible in line with recording procedures.

The Child Welfare Officer did not take minutes during his meeting with the Wrafters, and did not make a record of his meeting with The Kid.

In the months that followed, Corry continued to do it his way. On January 24, 2015, he chaired a meeting between the Wrafters and the coach in an effort to find a solution. It didn't work.

"It was a waste of time," Noel says. "We had been led to believe our complaint was official but we were getting nowhere. The problem was not being dealt with. The whole aim was to support The Coach. I said to Denis: 'We're going to take this through the proper channels.' He said: 'Okay, you have to take your complaint to the Secretary, Barry Murphy.'"

Three hours later, Corry sent a text message: "Noel and Antoinette, there was one question that I wanted to ask but forgot to do today: What was your preferred outcome from today's meeting? What did you both really want from us today?"

A day later, Noel replied: "Hi Denis, sorry for the delay in returning a reply. This issue could have been resolved quite simply but because of the denials, attitude, etc and even down to (The Coach) refusing to shake Antoinette's hand at the end proved to us beyond any shadow of a doubt that there are serious issues that are being dismissed so the only choice dealt to us is to make the whole lot official."

For a man who liked things in writing, Corry had shown a curious aversion - no minutes taken again at that meeting - to picking up a pen. But six weeks later, on March 3, 2015, he committed his thoughts to paper with a 'report' that was scathing of the Wrafters and riddled with errors and untruths.

"Neither parent has ever been involved with taking teams or any collective group for any organised events or sports . . ."

"Neither parent seemed to understand the very basics of the Schoolboy organisation . . ."

"Neither parent attended matches or training to seek to determine if their son was telling the truth . . ."

It went on: "Nobody at that meeting was calling (The Kid) untruthful but surely responsible adults should seek to verify themselves what (The Kid) said was happening at Tulla Soccer Club . . . any reasonable adult would say that if these parents (Wrafters) had reasonable and legitimate concerns, then I and our Club have gone a long way to endeavour to resolve them . . . I feel the Wrafters have taken this matter far enough."

Antoinette started crying; Noel was incensed. He sent Corry a six-page reply and lodged an official complaint with the club against (The Coach) for "abusive language and demeaning/de-motivational behaviour"; and against Corry for "failing as a Welfare Officer to act in accordance with FAI regulations".

The club weren't interested. "We are aware that there has been considerable correspondence and engagement on this matter already," the secretary, Barry Murphy, replied. "The Club is satisfied that the matter has been properly addressed by the Club and its Designated Child Welfare Officer, Denis Corry."

Seven months passed. The Kid had a new coach and was back playing again; Ailbhe was flying with the Tulla Under 10s; and Noel was a dog with a bone, bombarding the football overlords - the CSSL, SFAI, FAI - with letters and emails on their child welfare policies and how Tulla had ignored the rules.

The club was getting pissed.

"Dear Noel and Antoinette, Tulla United has now reviewed this ongoing matter and regrettably we have decided that it is time for you to consider leaving our Club and taking your children elsewhere to pursue their sporting ambitions." (A letter to the Wrafters on October 20, 2015)

The Wrafters considered it for a day and sent a reply: "We would like to gratefully inform you that we will not be taking you up on that offer."

Then things got really shitty.

5

This EGM has been called in order for the Club committee (and) members to have a look at our club constitution in relation to membership (mainly). In recent months the club has received complaints (numerous) from a family who's kids are members.

With that (redacted) gave the meeting a background of what these complaints were about. The family in question are the Wrafter family (Tulla). The Club wishes to change/add rules to protect the Club and its coaches.

Minutes from the Tulla United

EGM on October 28, 2015

6

Three changes were made to the Constitution of Tulla United at their first ever EGM. Clause 7 is the most interesting.

Before:

7. Membership is open to anybody who accepts the aims and ideals of the Club.

After:

7. Membership is open to anybody who accepts the aims and ideals of the Club. The Committee shall have the power to refuse to accept the application of anyone if, in the opinion of the Committee, such person/person's parents/person's guardians previous behaviour/misconduct warrants such a refusal. The Club shall comply at all times with the Principles of Natural Justice in any investigation.

One of the basic pillars of natural justice is audi alterem partem - let the other side be heard. Six months earlier, two official complaints about the same coach had been lodged with the club - one from the Wrafters, and one from a concerned parent. The club invited this parent to a meeting. They have never met the Wrafters.

On February 12, 2016 - four months after the constitution was changed - they sent the Wrafters an ultimatum:

"Our Club has reviewed all your correspondence received over the past 18 months making very serious unfounded allegations against the Club's officials . . . The Club now requires an open letter from you, firstly apologising for the allegations and secondly a complete withdrawal of the said allegations.

"The Club requires that you submit this letter to the Club Secretary Barry Murphy on or before 5pm on Friday 26th February 2016. Should you not comply with the above time limit, the Club has no alternative but to reserve its right to refuse you or any member of your family for the coming season."

Two weeks later The Kid and his sister were out of Tulla United.

"I had just bought Ailbhe a new pair of boots because they were playing during the winter on the astroturf," Antoinette says. "She started bawling crying. She was excited to be playing and so proud of her new boots . . . she still has them under her bed."

"I was fit to go down and take their heads off," Noel says.

(Three weeks later.)

The family are invited to a meeting with Martin O'Hanlon, the secretary of the SFAI, at the Auburn Lodge in Ennis. "He asked if we were willing to park the complaints to get the kids back in," Noel says. "We told them we would, but that the complaints would have to be dealt with."

O'Hanlon also met with the club and later made a proposal: "Everything done prior to the meeting (Auburn Lodge March 19th) is parked and that the kids return to playing soccer."

(Three months after that.)

The Club respond: "We wish to reply to this proposal and state that Tulla Utd position has not changed since our last correspondence sent to Noel Wrafter on Feb 26th - please find attached. We do not accept your proposal."

(A month after that.)

The FAI write to Tulla and request clarification on the re-instatement of the children: "As you will agree, the safety and welfare of all children is of paramount importance and it is critical the needs of (Ailbhe and The Kid) are the primary consideration for all concerned."

(A month after that.)

Denis Corry responds to another request from the FAI:

"I issued my report in March 2015. The Wrafters were not happy with its findings."

"The (SFAI proposal) is too oversimplistic.

"Noel Wrafter has engaged in diatribe."

"Noel Wrafter is the person who is depriving his two children of their opportunity to be part of our Club."

(A month after that.)

The matter is discussed at the meeting of the FAI Child Welfare Committee. They send a letter to Noel Wrafter:

"The Committee do not regard the initial complaint as a Child Welfare or disciplinary issue in this instance, but rather an example of poor practice. Considering the written apology of the coach involved, and subsequent investigations by Tulla United, CSSL, and the SFAI, the Committee feel that this matter has been dealt with in a thorough manner."

(Three days after that.)

Noel Wrafter sends a letter to the FAI and accepts that the issues with the coach "are poor practice" and that the coach's tone has changed: "The questions I have to ask is why were the procedures not followed as detailed within the FAI policies in dealing with the complaints? If Denis Corry was of the belief that it was poor practice then why did he ask us to put it in writing? Why did he arm us by telling us that he had other complaints?

"From the initial meeting we were instructed to follow his lead and we did, plus followed all Policies as set out by the FAI . . . The complaints were about (The Coach) and Denis Corry, why is there no response as to the way Denis dealt with it, the treatment of us and more so the committee as a whole not following these policies?

"Finally, as Tulla United have still not proved their allegations and still not responded to the requests to do so, why are the kids not back in the Club . . . What is the FAI response to this? Where both yourself and the SFAI have asked for the kids to be reinstated, I note that there is nothing in the report to that effect. What is the FAI stance on this now?"

(Six months after that.)

Ailbhe sends a letter to Denis Corry: "You are mean. Please let us back in."

(Eight months after that.)

Ailbhe sends a letter to John Delaney.

"We've tried to find out what they think we have done wrong," Antoinette says. "We've tried to get them to tell us so that if we have done (wrong) . . . okay, we'll sit down and try and fix that. But from what we can see, it's the fact that we started asking questions they didn't like."

7

Antoinette Wrafter approached Denis Corry on September 6th 2014 with a complaint about (The Coach). DC directed AW to submit the complaint in writing. This she duly did. This letter should have been sent to Tulla United A.F.C directly as per Tulla United A.F.C Code of Ethics and Policy Guidelines, this should have been addressed to the Secretary. The next steps of the process would have then kicked in and would have in all probability avoided the situation we are in today.

The Reviewing Committee

of the CSSL, June 22, 2015

Audi alterem partem is also a pillar of journalism. On Monday, we phoned Denis Corry and offered to drive to Clare to hear the club's side of the story. He seemed reticent, but said he would be in touch. He called back Tuesday and was more amenable. "It will probably be Thursday," he said. "We're just trying to arrange it. I'll be in touch."

By late Wednesday evening, it was clear the meeting wasn't going to happen. But, true to his word, he phoned on Thursday afternoon.

This is an edited transcript of our conversation:

Denis Corry: "I'm sitting on a tractor here looking out at a few cattle, so I won't take up too much of your time . . . Okay we got our officers together and we've met.

Paul Kimmage: Who were the officers?

DC: Pardon?

PK: Who were the officers?

DC: The chairman and the secretary. We met with the club solicitor and we won't be commenting on it. Maybe at a later point, who knows? But for the moment, if you wanted to quote me, all I would say is that the facts of the matter will speak for themselves.

PK: And those facts are what?

DC: Well, I'm not going to get into it with you if you don't mind. I'm sure you have a lot of information from Mr Wrafter. We regard our club as being very well run. We follow all our policies and procedures and so on, so we'll just have to wait and see. Go ahead and write if you wish.

PK: Can I just ask you to verify one thing? It's a statement you've made before about where you and the club stand on this. "The whole substance of this matter was discussed by the committee of the club before any decision was taken by the club. Mr Wrafter made a serious allegation of child abuse against one of our coaches. He was unable to substantiate it as it was patently false. This was proven by two subsequent third party investigations, one of which is the SFAI which Mr Wrafter refers to in this request for data." (The Wrafters had sent a request to the Data Commissioner.)

DC: Yeah, that's factually correct.

PK: It's factually correct?

DC: (Noel Wrafter) was unhappy with the way it was examined locally. It was looked at at county level, he wasn't happy with them. He went to the SFAI and they looked at it and at all points there was no case to answer. So that piece is accurate.

PK: So if it's accurate you'll be able to substantiate it?

DC: Well, you know, please don't be drawing me in. I'd love to talk to you but . . .

PK: I just want to clarify what your position is. You've had four days to talk to me and you won't talk to me.

DC: I think you've got a fair summation from what you've just read out to me. And I presume you must have received that from Mr Wrafter, and he would have all of the correspondence I'm sure at this point.

PK: Not all. He says there's a lot of it missing.

DC: Well, he went through the Data Commissioner's Office, so I think it's unfair to say he isn't in possession of the full facts.

PK: Can you provide me with the full facts? Can you send me copies of these two investigations? I want to be fair to you guys. It would be great if you can substantiate it.

DC: I'm just a little unclear on what you're asking for?

PK: You said two investigations had proven that what Noel Wrafter had said was false. Patently false. I'm asking you to send me those investigations. And I can't find this serious allegation of child abuse.

DC: Sorry . . . I'm trying to work a tractor here.

PK: Do you want to have a think about it and call me back?

DC: Look, you go and do whatever it is that you want to do. I've chatted to you, I've been decent enough to call you back, I haven't ignored you, and I've told you what the club has decided. I'm just one person in a club.

PK: That's not quite true. You're the treasurer, the CSSL delegate, the Child Welfare Officer, and on the Board of Trustees. You're a person of significant influence in the club.

DC: Well, if you're saying that I've put a lot of work into developing the club that's quite true. But there are officers and there's a committee and at all stages the matter was handled with transparency, and that's the way we do our business.

PK: I've a copy of your Code of Ethics and Policy guidelines here. I don't see anywhere in the process that you adhered to that code.

DC: You'd better go back and read it again.

PK: You went on a personal solo mission to try and solve this yourself?

DC: I'm the Child Welfare Officer. I am the person to which the complaint was made.

PK: Yes, and you should have brought the complaint immediately to Barry Murphy (the Secretary).

DC: We have followed our policies.

PK: I'm sorry Denis, you haven't followed them. It was one of the things that was commented on by the CSSL. They said that if you had followed your guidelines you wouldn't be in this mess. And those kids would still have a football club. It was an absolute scandalous (decision) to put those two poor kids out of the club.

DC: And the dad has total control of the direction on how that can be progressed . . . I've got to go. I've got to go . . .

8

The protection and welfare of children is of paramount importance to the FAI. Any act, statement, conduct or other matter which harms a child or children, or poses or may pose a risk of harm to a child or children, shall constitute behaviour which is improper and brings the game into disrepute. The FAI Child Welfare Policy sets out how all matters pertaining to the protection and welfare of children are governed.

Rule 40 of the FAI's

'Rules of the Association'

He said.

She said.

He said.

She said.

He said.

She said.

But you're not listening, right? You stopped reading after the second paragraph? You thought: 'Why are they publishing this? A coach swore at some kids. It happens all over the country. Why this coach? Why this club? What's the big deal?'

The big deal is that kids matter. What we say to them matters. What they say to us matters. The Kid matters. His sister, Ailbhe, matters. Their parents, Noel and Antoinette, matter. The rules matter. The guidelines matter. They're there to protect our kids. But they're there to protect The Coach and Denis Corry too. Because for every club in the country, where children are involved, we can't afford to have it any other way.

The FAI have some brilliant rules, and John Delaney has always enjoyed trumpeting them when he's sending out press releases or standing before the Oireachtas. But when the rules are ignored, and a 12-year-old girl desperate to play football sends a letter to John Delaney begging for help, then we really see why they matter.

Kids matter.

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