31/10/2001

Armagh and Derry vote to retain Rule 21

The GAA county boards of Armagh and Derry have voted against scrapping Rule 21, which bans members of the RUC and British army from joining the Gaelic Athletic Association.

News from the two hardcore counties against removing Rule 21 comes as results from the nine Ulster counties on the rule begin to stream in. The Fermanagh county board is to debate the rule on Monday 5 November with Tyrone making its decision the following day.

However the majority of southern counties are in favour of abolishing the ban on British security personnel from playing GAA. But a change is not possible without the backing of the Ulster counties.

In order to tackle the controversial issue the GAA central council announced that a special congress is being held on 17 November to decide whether the rule should be retained.

The last time Rule 21 was debated at national level, the GAA reached a compromise and decided the ban would be deleted if effective steps were taken to implement structures and policing arrangements envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement.

Recent movements on policing within Northern Ireland, which have been backed by the nationalist SDLP and the Catholic Church, although not by Sinn Féin, have shifted attitudes within the Gaelic association.

Rule 21 has been the most controversial regulation in the GAA’s rulebook. Opponents describe it as outdated, but previous attempts to scrap the security forces ban have been scuppered by fierce resistance from the GAA’s grassroots in Ulster. (AMcE)

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