INCIDENTS of racism on the GAA fields of Ireland have been relatively sporadic, judging from the number of times such flashpoints make it into the public domain. But when they happen, it’s imperative that the GAA is seen to act decisively and unambiguously.
Wexford county board has done so now by suspending two club footballers following a reported incident of racial abuse directed at Wexford senior footballer Lee Chin.
Two members of the Duffry Rovers team have each received eight-week bans after referee Brendan Martin highlighted, in his match report, allegedly racist comments directed at Lee during a recent match against Wexford town side Sarsfields.
Coupled with this swift reaction from Wexford disciplinary chiefs, county board chairman Diarmuid Devereux has delivered a strongly worded message that such comments “cannot be tolerated”.
“Lee Chin is a Wexford man, born in Wexford, educated in Wexford, living and working in Wexford. He is one of our stars of the future. Hopefully many more will follow his lead and example,” Devereux declared.
“Any form of racism in the GAA cannot be tolerated. It is terrible that Lee was subjected to these comments on a GAA pitch and the players involved should be ashamed of their behaviour.
“The hope I have is that through education and promotion of ethnic policy, we will rid Gaelic games of such abuse.
“The chances are that in the next 10 or 20 years, we will see the children of former non-nationals representing more and more counties.”
Devereux himself had no role in deciding the severity of the punishments in this particular case.
“It is up to the committee to deal with the bans,” he explained. “But an eight weeks suspension is a serious ban in Gaelic games.
“My preference is that we have better education programmes in place to stop these things occurring in the first place. This is an isolated incident. But one incident is one too many. Hopefully some good comes from this as it will help educate players.”
Chin has established himself on Jason Ryan’s senior football team this season, making his Leinster SFC debut against Longford in the recent drawn quarter-final at Croke Park.
He is likely to feature against Dublin in their upcoming semi-final on Sunday week.
A talented dual player, Chin is also set to play for the Wexford U21 hurlers in tonight’s Leinster semi-final against Kilkenny in Nowlan Park. Reports suggest he has been left upset and shocked by the incident.
However, there have been strong messages of support from within the GAA, coming from his club Sarsfields, the Gaelic Players’ Association and Croke Park, coupled with condemnation of the abuse.
“We are an anti-sectarian, anti-racist association and our games are open to people of all backgrounds,” a Croke Park statement said. “There is no room for behaviour of this nature and it flies in the face of our respect initiative, our inclusion and integration strategy, and the work overseen by our full-time national inclusion officer.”