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Karl O'Kane

Gender equality needs to happen now says GPA's Tom Parsons ahead of GAA Congress

GPA CEO Tom Parsons has vowed that the players’ body will be relentless in their push for the integration of the three biggest organisations in Gaelic Games.

And Parsons says the 4000 strong membership of the GPA — men and women — won’t accept a slow-moving agenda that takes a decade or more.

The GPA were speaking ahead of next Saturday’s GAA Congress at the Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence, where they will present a motion on integration.

Their motion calls on the GAA to “prioritise integration with the LGFA and Camogie Association in order to jointly ensure equal investment, recognition and opportunity for all genders to play all sports in the Gaelic Games family.”

Parsons says inter-county players across all codes will be disappointed if the LGFA and Camogie representatives at Congress in Mayo don’t speak when the GPA motion is brought to the floor.

The GPA believe integration of the GAA, LGFA and Camogie Association is achievable within 18 months — if the will is there to do so.

Parsons said: “The GPA and the players will be relentless when it comes to equality, and when I say that I don’t say that lightly.

“Even in our own constitution we have added equality as one of our four core pillars and we won’t accept slow moving agenda items over another 10 or 20 years in closing that gap, so we will be relentless.

“Have we thought beyond this motion, significantly? No, we are putting all our energy on helping the
leaderships to integrate.”

Parsons continued: “I know all female captains — both in camogie and the LGFA — have asked their leadership to speak at Congress.

“So every single captain has sent out that correspondence to their County Boards and the LGFA leadership.

“Players would be disappointed if they didn’t speak to the motion on Saturday.”

Parsons says it’s over to the three National Governing Bodies (NGBs) now but that the GPA will continue to push hard for integration and equality.

This would mean equal access to facilities and the same expenses for male and female inter-county players, something the GPA believe increasing commercial revenues, associated with the growing popularity of ladies sport to corporate sponsors pursuing a diversity agenda, would cover the extra cost of.

Pre-Covid and before the GPA and Women’s GPA (WGPA) merged, male inter-county players benefitted to in the region of €6.2 million per annum from the GAA for a range of support services, administration and salary costs as well as top-ups on individual player mileage rates, gear and nutrition allowances.

Matt O'Hanlon (GPA National Executive Committee Co-Chair & Wexford Hurling), Niamh Kilkenny (Galway Camogie), Tom Parsons (GPA CEO), Conor Meyler (Tyrone Football) and Gemma Begley (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion manager GPA) at yesterday's press briefing (©INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

A new fully-integrated model could also potentially include rotating GAA Presidents, male and female, or co-presidents, and equal representation on all the main decision-making bodies of any new association.

“From my perspective I do feel the LGFA and the Camogie Association should be knocking the door down for this motion,” said former Mayo star Parsons.

“It’s not just calling for integration. It’s calling for equal investment, recognition and opportunity for boys and girls, men and women.

“The language of this motion is very significant. There is no win-lose. It’s a win-win from my perspective and from the player’s perspective.

“I think if we all look at the future of sport, it’s going to be equal and it’s going to be driving equality, diversity and inclusion.

“We’d like to move to a place where we are talking about increasing the diversity of Gaelic Games but we can’t do that until we get equality right.”

The GPA’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion manager and former Tyrone player Gemma Begley says the time for talking is over, and action is required.

The straight-talking former Red Hand sharp shooter is delighted the issue is coming to a head at the annual GAA Congress this weekend.

“It is probably needed to bring it to a head in some way if you like because we have been talking about this for 20 years and there has been no progress,” said Begley.

Former Tyrone star Gemma Begley is the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion manager for the GPA (©INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

“Even if there is pushback on it, at least we are finally getting into something tangible and we can start publicly talking about what is actually the problem and how do we move collectively.

“This state of inertia is just serving nobody. We are just going around in circles on it and there is just a void of information.

“At least we are putting it up to the NGBs (GAA, Camogie Association and LGFA) to see if they are serious about this or not. This is probably the main thrust of the motion.”

Parsons believes there is a long-term vision for integration of the three bodies but he has called for immediate action.

“Sentiments of things like 10 years have been echoed to me on numerous occasions by both the LGFA and the Camogie Association,” he said.

“It’s immediate change and action that we’d like.

“We have shared a very ambitious vision of achieving equality for boys and girls and men and women, and we feel it can happen.

“Equally the LGFA and Camogie Association has shared that vision, albeit on a much longer timeline of something like 10 years.

“I think it’s there and it’s talked about. I just don’t think the reality is that they believe that it can happen in the next 12 to 18 months.

“Players do believe it can and that there is a responsibility of the leadership to listen to the voice of players — we are a very significant stakeholder — and listen to membership, listen to the public.

“Who ultimately owns our Gaelic games? It’s the people. Its society and we have a duty of care in leadership positions, in our government body and even ourselves in the GPA to listen to what the people want in Gaelic Games.

“I hope that this week there is an opportunity for everybody to stand up and speak on the floor of Congress on Saturday.

“I think the players would like the LGFA and Camogie Association representatives to stand up at Congress and speak to this motion, and contribute to a commitment to integration.”

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