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Óráid an Uachtaráin nua Liam O'Neill

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Iar Uachtaráin, a Ard Stiúrthóir is a chairde uilig.

Is cúis áthais agus onóra dom seasamh os bhúr gcomhair mar Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael.

Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leo siúd a chabhraigh liom ar mo bhealach go dtí an pointe seo i mo shaol.

Táim ag súil go mór le dul i mbun oibre ar son an chumainn agus tá a fhios agam go maith go bhfuil neart oibre le déanamh.

Ar mo shon féin agus ar son an chumann ar fad ba mhaith liom buíochas ó chroí a ghabháil le hIar Uachtaráin Críostóir Ó Cuana as an méid a rinne sé ina thréimhse mar Uachtaráin .

Chuir sé a chrut féin ar an Uachtarántacht agus d’oibrigh sé go dian agus go dícheallacht ar ár son.

Guím gach rath agus séan ort féin a Chriostóir agus ar do bhean chéile Ann agus sibh ag glacadh sos atá tuillte go maith agaibh.

Táim ag súil go mór le dul i mbun oibre leis an Ard Stiúrthóir Páraic Ó Dufaigh le linn mo thréimhse mar Uachtarán.

Tá ard mheas agam ar Páraic agus tá a fhios agam go ndéanfaimid ar dtréan dícheall jab maith a dhéanamh ar son an chumainn.

Ba mhaith liom buíochas pearsanta a ghabháil le mo bhean chéile Áine agus le mo pháistí Caoimhe Ciarán agus Clíodhna . Mar adúirt mé anurraidh bhí Áine taobh liom nuair a thosaigh mé mar Rúnaí ar an gcumann iománaíochta i UCD go luath i 1975 agus is ansin a bhí sí ó shin ar gach ocáid deas agus mí dheas go dtí inniu. Gan an tacaíocht a fuair mé uaithi ní bheinn anseo mar Uachtarán inniu.

A Chairde, I don’t intend to repeat much of what I said when I spoke to you last year in Mullingar. In that speech I told you from where I drew my strength. I explained how much my family, my friends my club and my county have meant to me over the years.

I have learned a huge amount from being involved in this organisation; I have learned a huge amount about what being part of a community means. I am delighted today that so many members of my own family, extended family, and my friends from Trumera are here in the hall as are many friends from other clubs in Laois and further afield who wanted to be present to share this moment with me! I can’t tell you how much that means to me. Nor can I tell you how much the support I have received from the people of Trumera over the last year has meant to me. Tomorrow I will be spending my first day as president of the GAA with the people of Trumera. My first official function will be to open our new dressing rooms. The club has designated tomorrow as our Lá na gClub and I know that the wider GAA community will understand that as my next three years will be spent with other clubs I want and will be delighted to spend my first day amongst my own people.

We are a tiny community. We formed our club 40 years ago and there is no doubt there is strength in unity and in community. I grew up in that community. I served that community through my involvement in the GAA and more importantly through my involvement in Gaelscoil Thromaire for 31 years.

It’s time now for me to bring all I’ve learned so far to bear on the next three years. I’m looking forward to bringing both my life experiences and my GAA experiences with me to guide me through my presidency. Now, having said that I want you to know that my presidency will not be about me but about the wider GAA and how I can best lead the organisation through service to it.

The challenges we have to face will only be overcome through people working together to serve the organisation. As your president I will listen to you, to your questions and your recommendations.

I don’t intend to set out today the entire detail of what I will attempt to do over the next three years. Instead I will outline and focus on three main areas of concern.

The first area is centred on some aspects of our games: refereeing, discipline, fixtures planning and the promotion of hurling. The second area concerns finance, infrastructure and the development of officers.
The third and most challenging area relates to keeping our youth involved, recruiting new members, forming new clubs and the facing the Urban challenge.

Centring around our games I intend to challenge the organisation to demonstrate that we actually do have the best possible games programme for our children, youths and adults.

I see the importance of this being all about balance. We need to decide what level of games we need to provide for our primary school children. We need to coordinate the work of Cumann na mBunscoil, Juvenile boards and clubs and ask ourselves, collectively are we truly providing the best regular programme of games in which our new policy of the development of skills through a games based approach can work for our youngest most impressionable players.

My challenge to counties is to liaise with their primary schools, Cumann na mBunscoil, through their Coaching and Games Development Committees and in conjunction with the clubs to ascertain whether we are committed to the Go-Games model? Are we happy to put aside our over emphasis (in the past) on competition, in favour of a player pathway for children which sees them developing their skills and their love of our games through having fun?

I will also be asking County Committees and our Games Development Committees at National, provincial and county level to ensure that we are providing the best possible regular programme’s of games for teenagers in their own age groups and commensurate with their own strengths.

We need to examine much more closely the balance between club activity and school activity. I believe that a much greater part of games activity at this level needs to be coordinated through County and provincial Games development committees. We need to much better connect School activity to club and county activity in order to keep teenagers involved.

At U21, third level and adult level I will be insisting that we as an organisation more clearly decide where our priorities lie. When we talk of player burn out are we truly and honestly prepared to make decisions on how we can change our structures to accommodate the needs of our players and as a result place those needs much higher up in our list of priorities?

I believe that meaningful change can only be brought about if people are prepared to examine new ways of doing things and having decided possess the necessary courage to implement change. Let’s not be afraid to examine all our current methods and structures and if change will better achieve our objectives then let me assure Congress that I will lead in any effort to effect the required changes.

It is proper that we all recognise that significant progress has been made on fixtures planning over the last three years. We now, however, have to bring the well thought theory into practise. We have to develop and encourage within our fixture making process the tools and willingness to address those problematical aspects of fixture planning which need attention and together devise a games programme that is balanced and offers everyone the best possible games schedule. I firmly believe Congress, that there is quite simply no other topic in respect of our organisation about which our most important component, that is our club players at all levels, demand and expect much overdue improvement.

In the course of the last year we have gradually unveiled a new development plan for hurling. We have set up the new Hurling and Camogie Development Centre in Waterford I T. We have identified nine Developing Counties at the bottom of our order of merit for special development.

13 counties, from three different provinces, have participated in a very successful Táin league. Now the question needs to be asked and I will be seeking an answer: If cross-county, cross provincial competition can be of benefit as has been proven by the Táin League should we not be looking at further areas to develop such activity, adjusting our rules as necessary, with the agreement of Central Council and ensuring that we can promote our games in a modern context?

Central to the playing of games and promotion of games is the specific area of refereeing and discipline. A number of years ago we initiated an in depth review of the playing infraction penalty system and how we might devise and test a new penalty system with a view to improving discipline on the field and making our games more pleasurable to play and entertaining to watch. It has been suggested to me that our games could now benefit from revisiting our system of penalties. I am considering establishing a new working group to take a fresh look at this and modify the original proposals to take into account good suggestions which have been advanced recently.

Refereeing continues to be an area of concern to us all. I will be appointing a New Referee Development Committee. They will be asked to investigate new ways of recruiting and training referees. For instance: should we look to recruit retiring players as referees?

We need to examine the possibility of listing our fouls in Gaelic games into categories that are easily understood. Children who commence playing our games need to be taught the rules and the penalties to be applied for foul play from day one. Our supporters need to understand our rules also.

Listening to people over the last year it has been identified to me clearly that the greatest reputational damage to this organisation is what others see as the occasional outbursts of violence by, thankfully a very small number of people.
Let me state clearly now that, as far as I am concerned, there is no acceptable level of violence.

Indiscipline and violence cannot be accepted and it will not be tolerated. It’s not enough however to say it. Our rules and sanctions need to reflect just that and we need to rigidly apply those sanctions which the committed infractions require. Unfortunately a significant percentage of our units and players have yet to learn to accept fair punishment which after all is decided by their peers and is applied solely in the spirit of our agreed rules and for the greater good of our games

The second area of focus which during my presidency I will direct our attention to is the area of finance, infrastructure and officer development.

Finance, in these uncertain economic times, is an area of huge concern not only to the GAA but to every sporting body. I want all of our units to tell us what help they need with finance. Do you need help in budgeting? Do you need help with fundraising ideas and methods? Do you need help in the management of our accounts? If help is needed, help will be provided. Our new Finance committee will act a resource for counties, not just identifying difficulties but also suggesting practical solutions.

In the area of infrastructure the committee charged with this will be asked to examine the current position with regards to our main venues, our county venues and our club venues. We need to be prudent in our spending. I understand completely why, in times when we thought we had money, this organisation, like many others in the country, felt compelled to expand without questioning why we were expanding. Our priority in the coming years is the management of our finance. We need all relevant questions formulated, asked and answered concerning our financial ability to continue and complete the infrastructure programme we have started.

We continually ask our volunteers to do more and more work for us year on year. I cannot promise that I can change that but I will ensure that we will be continually asking our club and county officers: how can we serve your needs? how can we help you?; how can we empower you to do what you do voluntarily for us? I will be tasking a new committee with the primary objectives of officer development and assistance. It will be one of our most important committees. and It will be the function of that committee to go out and ask those questions of our units. They will decide then what needs to be done and put in train a continual process by which we can train and assist our officers at county, club and national level.

The third area of challenge is tackling the urban sprawl that has developed in this country over the last number of years. This will overlap in urban areas with our objective of increasing youth involvement to combat the recent trend of ever decreasing numbers playing our games at youth level.

We need to examine the area of recruitment and to plan how we will develop and expand into new places where the GAA is not yet strong. We will decide on a list of priorities to achieve expansion of our games where required ; and we will especially strive through our infrastructure committees to plan and place ,the provision of new playing facilities, into areas where new clubs are likely to be formed.

We will also, in relation to recruitment and expansion, engage with the GAA overseas: to learn from them and to ask questions of them. For example: how do they expand and recruit for the organisation in places where the GAA has never been before? I want us to be open enough to learn from them and bring their experiences acquired abroad back home. I want us then to bring our organisational abilities at home to bear on those experiences with a view to expanding this organisation so that everybody has a chance to be aware of, and participate in, our Gaelic games.

Those are the three areas that I most wished to mention today but they are of course not the only areas that will be addressed by our various committees and units during my term as Uachtaran. I have posed and will pose many questions to hopefully assist the organisation in reaching clear and beneficial decisions and forming long term sensible and sustainable polices which will aid the well being and growth of our organisation. In most instances I merely want the debate to be held and the questions answered. I trust our committees or units charged with making a decision to make the right one. Therefore I will listen more than I will direct. I will use my experience to provide guidance to help the association overcome the challenges that we will face over the next three years.

I am excited by the challenge and grateful for the opportunity to serve this organisation at this high level. I’m looking forward to my term. What has made us strong as an organisation has been our sense of community. As an organisation, founded post famine, we have survived and strengthened from generation to generation through wars and many recessions because we are based in the community, because we serve our communities.

Community and a sense of community has been the inspiration and the source of strength for our organisation from day one. Within that word Community is the word unity. In unity and in community we can continue to grow. I intend to lead our organisation through service to community and through service to the GAA.

I ask you to commit with me today to a unity of purpose. Let’s work together to make this organisation the best Games Organisation in the world. 

I look forward to leading the GAA in a spirit of leadership through service. I want to be the best President I can be. I can’t wait to get started and I look forward to your loyalty and support. Let the work begin and let’s work together to make the GAA a truly united and vibrant national and international movement.

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