The Donegal County Board have extended an invitation to the local media to return to county committee meetings.
Clubs voted unanimously in favour of welcoming the press back at county committee at the Villa Rose Hotel in Ballybofey on Monday night and the move looks like concluding an ongoing black-out since last May.
“The motion was backed unanimously,” said new PRO Ed Byrne. “The view was that we need one another, the GAA and the media, and that good publicity is good as we have nothing to hide.”
County committee and annual convention are essentially private meetings but Byrne said the invitation to the media will be on “a rollover basis.”
There was a meeting between members of the executive - chairman Sean Dunnion, PRO Byrne and secretary Aodh Máirtín O’Fearraigh - and the local media in Letterkenny last Sunday week, where agreement was reached, primarily over the reporting of issues ‘in-camera’.
It was decided that An Cathaoirleach may, at any time, call for going in-camera during a discussion at County Committee. The discussion up to the point of An Cathaoirleach’s call may be reported. However, An Cathaoirleach also reserves the right to request that the statement/ comment/ allegation that he deemed necessary for going in camera not be reported.
The initial fall-out came last May when Donegal manager Jim McGuinness had been giving his annual report, looking back over 2012 and the early months of 2013.
There was a disagreement between county management and the Competitions Control Committee (CCC) over the availability of county players due to the scheduling of club fixtures.
Central Council delegate Niall Erskine interjected to propose that the discussion go in-camera, but McGuinness refused. “There’ll be no in-camera,” he said.
After McGuinness had left the meeting, Erskine against suggested in-camera. While this was seconded and largely supported by delegates, it is not common practice for items to be retrospectively placed in-camera. Therefore, the debate was reported in that week’s local papers.
The local media in the north-west were then informed the June meeting would be conducted entirely in-camera and later that month members of the county executive - Dunnion, former PRO Sean Quinn and secretary O’Fearraigh - met with the media in Ballybofey.
Agreement was not reached with the county board officials, who were looking to allow the chairman to call, at any time, or during any part of the meeting, that the meeting was going in-camera, either in advance or retrospectively.
It was also proposed that media representatives shall not leave the room during an in-camera discussion and that the use of Twitter shall be prohibited until a meeting closes.
At that time the local press declined the invitation to attend future county committee meetings.
Ahead of county convention in December, the media were invited again. However, there was a condition, which was ultimately rejected, that read: “An Cathaoirleach can call at any time, or during any part of the meeting, that the meeting is going in camera, either in advance or retrospectively.”
The local media are expected to make a return to county committee meetings at the next scheduled meeting on Monday, February 3.