GAA Healthy Clubs ahead of the game and leading the way for tobacco- free Ireland.
Twenty nine Healthy Clubs across the 4 provinces are the picture of health with complete smoke- free grounds
Case Study - St Mary’s GAA Club in Convoy, Donegal
St Mary’s GAA Club in Convoy, Donegal are the first club in Ulster to go completely smoke free. Sean Dunnion, County Chairman joined Conor Mc Dermot, Club Chairman at St Marys to officially launch the club’s smoke- free grounds by cutting the green ribbon on Saturday, 19th of November 2016.
The club was the picture of the health decorated with smoke free signage and posters from the local national school. The scoreboard was even transformed with smoke- free messages. Guest speakers on the day included Ciaran Mc Loughlin, Chairman of the National Health & Wellbeing Committee, Aoife O’Brien, GAA National Healthy Club Coordinator, Fiona Boyle, HSE Smoking Cessation Officer in Donegal and Charlie Mc Manus, GP and medic to Donegal men’s team.
National representative Aoife O’Brien says “we want to set a positive example for all our members and de-normalise any association between the GAA and tobacco usage. We want to protect our members, visitors and volunteers from the dangers of tobacco and second hand smoke exposure and reduce the initiation of smoking amongst young people in particular”.
Fiona Boyle, the local Smoking Cessation Officer in Donegal said “it is inspiring to see Healthy Clubs leading the way and supporting the government’s ambitious target of making Ireland smoke- free by 2025”. She distributed resources and cessation aids at the launch and signposted members of the club to the local smoking cessation services. The local National School were also on board and winners of the smoke- free club poster competition were announced at the launch.
Executive members in St Marys decided to go completely smoke- free after a proposal by Lorena Barron, the Children’s Officer and member of the Healthy Club project team. The mother-of-two, whose daughter Ellie is captain of the Donegal U14 ladies gaelic team, said she hopes other clubs will follow suit.
“I just didn’t think it was fair that I could be watching a game and someone could light up a cigarette beside me and send smoke over the dug-outs,” she said. “We want to encourage a healthy lifestyle and this is one way of doing that. It’s not about being anti-smoker either. Smokers will have to go outside the gate and I’m hoping it will discourage others, especially our younger members, from taking up the habit and perhaps help some to give up smoking altogether.”
St Mary’s were inspired by St John’s Volunteers in Wexford who were the first club in Ireland to completely ban smoking in the club grounds back in 2014.
Other clubs participating in the Healthy Club project are leading way across the other provinces. Parteen GAA Club in Clare were the first in Munster to go smoke- free back in May 2016 and included a count- down to the smoke- free launch. The club is signposted to ensure that no one can smoke on the pitch side and that smokers must leave the GAA grounds if they wish to do so. Speaking about the adoption of the GAA Smoke free policy Club Health & Wellbeing Officer, Karen Williamson said “It was a difficult thing to vote for because some of the executive committee themselves are smokers, but we decided to go ahead with it. We wanted to encourage people to give up smoking and wanted to show good role model-ship for the children”. Parteen GAA have received support from local pharmacies and the local smoking cessation nurse. The club plans to organise smoking cessation talks with the local schools for club members, players and the wider community in 2017.
Clara GAA Club in Kilkenny are the most recent to adopt the smoke- free policy in Leinster and their effort has been commended by Michael Fennelly, Kilkenny All Star and Ned Quinn, Kilkenny GAA Chairman. The GAA smoke- free initiative is even reaching the far west and Achill GAA are the latest club to express an interest.
It is hoped that these champion Healthy Clubs will continue to inspire other clubs around the county to ditch the cigarettes and move towards complete tobacco- free club grounds. Thanks to the kind CSR investment from Irish Life the GAA are able to provide participating clubs with smoke- free signage for the club grounds.
For more information about the GAA smoke free initiative please contact the Community & Health Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.