Donegal Manager Rory Gallagher with Donegal County Secretary Aideen Gillen

Donegal Manager Rory Gallagher with Donegal County Secretary Aideen Gillen

Women should be welcomed to the world of GAA because they have a big input to offer, but gender quotas should not be enforced just for the sake of it, according to the secretary of the Donegal GAA County Board Aideen Gillen.

Gillen made these comments in response to the news that major sports bodies in Ireland could have their State funding cut unless 30% of their board positions are filled by women.

Secretary Gillen said: “I do not agree with gender quotas just for the sake of it. There are some very capable women out there and if they secure a position on a board that’s great but if the male applicant is more suited to the position they should get it.

“I don’t agree with forcing a very capable male out of a position just for the sake of gender quotas.  It should be the best person for the job, it shouldn’t be based on the sex of the person. It should depend on their capabilities.

“We should encourage and create a welcoming environment for women. They can have a big input to offer. Gender quotas would help integration of Ladies GAA and Mens GAA.”

The Donegal GAA County Board currently has two women, out of a total of 15 members.

Noreen Doherty is the County Administrator. She broke down several barriers when, at the Donegal county convention in 1991, she became the first female to be elected as a county secretary.

Doherty served as the secretary of Sean MacCumhaills from the 1980s and cut her teeth at club level. At that time, it was rare for females even to be present at county committee meetings, but Doherty showed the way and she served 14 years in the position.

The Ballybofey woman made history a second time in 2009 when she was elected as Donegal’s Central Council delegate, thereby becoming the first female member of Central Council.

Her successors were also woman, Crona Regan and Aideen Gillen. Glenties woman Regan was just 22 when she took the baton – becoming the youngest ever county secretary.

Minister of State for Sport Patrick O’Donovan has announced his plans to introduce this new gender quota rule in two years’ time. This rule follows the government plans for all organisations with more than 10 employees, which is designed to ensure that at least a third of members on managing boards are women.

Many large sporting bodies like the GAA, FAI and IRFU have no women on their boards, and the plan to slash funding if the balance is not corrected is intended to “take out glass ceilings for women”, according to the Minister.

This rule will work both ways too, and boards with all-female members will have to have 30% men. In 2020, small organisations with fewer than 10 employees will also have to enforce the quota.