C: European People's Party (CC BY 2.0 https://bit.ly/3HF4zc4) & Nodlaig Ni Bhrollaigh (R)

“There should be some provision for cash” at GAA matches, Taoiseach tells Dáil

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil that there should “be some provision for cash” at GAA matches in response to being pressed on the issue of the GAA’s cashless ticket policy by Aontú leader and Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín. 

Deputy Tóibín brought the matter up in Dáil Eireann today during Taoiseach’s Questions, as he called for the GAA to drop its policy of cashless tickets for GAA games, saying it is discriminatory against some older people who are not able to purchase tickets online.

“The GAA has introduced a policy of getting rid of cash at GAA matches throughout the country. This is the wrong decision,” the Aontú politician told the Dáil.

“It means that many people, especially older people who cannot buy GAA tickets online or use technology are effectively banned from matches. I know of older people who have gone to matches. They have not been able to procure a ticket and they have had to go home”.

He said that the policy was “disappointing” while crediting the GAA as a “wonderful” and successful community organisation.

“The GAA is a wonderful organisation. It is the most successful community organisation in the country,” Mr Tóibín said. “That is why it is disappointing to see this policy being introduced. The policy is excluding people. It is hitting the people who have been isolated the most during the Covid crisis. Age NI has come out to publicly pronounce against this policy. AIB was forced to reverse its policy when it started to get rid of cash, especially in rural branches”.

“Aontú is campaigning, North and South, for the re-introduction of cash in at least one turnstile at each match. Will the Taoiseach join with us and ask the GAA to be more inclusive in terms of access to GAA matches?”

In response, Mr Varadkar said that while decisions on policy are “ultimately a matter for the organisations concerned”, there “should be some provision for cash”.

“To be honest, I have read a bit about that matter but I am not fully across it,” the Taoiseach said.

“Decisions on ticketing are ultimately a matter for the organisations concerned but there should be some provision for cash. One of the issues that came out of the report on the retail banking sector, led by the former Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, was that while we do want to have electronic payments and make them the norm, and they are the norm now, cash is still legal tender and we should make some provision for the use of cash.

“That said, I do not understand the practicalities of having one turnstile that accepts cash. I just do not know enough about it to make a judgment on it,” he said.

Aontú Councillor Sarah O’Reilly first brought the issue to attention several months ago, campaigning for fans to once again be allowed to buy GAA tickets in cash. In January, a petition campaign was launched by Nodlaig Ni Bhrollaigh, a former ladies footballer and barrister from County Derry, who is the sister of football analyst and former Derry All-Ireland winner Joe Brolly, and has since made national headlines. A petition launched by Ms Ni Bhrollaigh against the ‘unethical’ and ‘discriminatory’ policy has so far been signed by almost 2,000 people since it was launched last month.

Aontú Councillor for Cavan, Sarah O’Reilly, says that it is clear calls for the return of cash are expanding.

“Aontú is campaigning north and south for the reintroduction of cash at at least one turnstile at each match,” she said, adding: We welcome the Taoiseach responding positively to our question today. And we call on the GAA to listen to the concerns being raised and ensure that people no matter their age or technological ability are able to gain entry into matches”. 

In response to Ms Ni Bhrollaigh’s petition campaign, Age NI urged the GAA to consider its no-cash ticket policy. The Northern charity, which campaigns for older people, has written to the Ulster Council outlining its concerns around the policy. Its intervention came as protestors held a demonstration outside Healy Park in Omagh on Saturday, calling for the GAA to reverse the ‘unfair’ policy ahead of a national league game between Tyrone and Donegal.

Age NI Director Paschal McKeown said that the GAA has a key part to play in community life. 

“Age NI recognises that sporting organisations like the GAA play a key role in encouraging their participation and involvement in sport and leisure activities and being part of their community”. She added that as part of the charity’s 2021 Lived Experience Survey, older people “identified access to cash and retention of local banking services as being a key issue”.

The charity director says she fears that adopting a cashless policy “may exclude and have an adverse impact on older people, particularly those who are over 75 years”.

“We therefore would ask the GAA to reconsider this decision and reintroduce cash payment as an alternative payment option,” Age NI said. 

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