“A Candle looses nothing when it lights another candle”
As members and friends of the families that Croke Park GAA are suing because we will not allow Croke Park GAA to take our Community & Handball Centre (also known as ‘The Irish Handball Council Sports Centre’) that our community built and maintained over the last 40 years we have prepared this little short history along with our website in the hope that we can get the TRUTH out about how our Centre is such an important facility to our community and how treacherous is the Croke Park GAA action of trying to take and knock our Centre so that Croke Park can turn lorries for the 3 concerts a year they are allowed at the moment. (See how the Croke Park official reacted when the RTE Prime Time reporter challenged him about knocking our Centre ‘to turn lorries’ on the link below at 10m 23s into the video).
Community & Handball Centre Built in 1970
Our Centre was built in 1970 and opened by the then Irish President Eamon DeValera. As well as the facilities we have at our centre the most important thing of all that we have is our community spirit. We look after our young and old and those with special needs. When our Centre opened in 1970 the GAA had come to accept that a social environment incorporating other activities in addition to Gaelic games was the way forward and our Centre became a great example.
Our Centre was built on a site ‘donated’ by the Croke Park GAA and many Dublin banks, companies in the buildings and construction sector, individuals, clubs, Dublin Corporation and the Department of Education provided assistance, materials and money. A plaque called ‘Cairde na Cuirte’ recognises some that contributed to the building of our Centre.
President Eamon DeValera inspecting the Centre drawings and model. DeValera himself played handball while jailed in Arbour Hill during the War of Independence. We wonder what he would think of Croke Park GAA/PACT's behaviour were he around today?
Initially the ‘Centre’ was being built as just a Handball Centre for the 1970 World Championships. However it was then decided that ‘grants’ should be got. But in order to get the taxpayer grants it was a requirement that the Centre should now be a Community and a Handball Centre.
Special Constitution put in place
A special Constitution, drawn up by the Croke Park GAA, was put in place to recognise both the Handball & Community aspects of the Centre and Croke Park GAA provided the Administration of the Centre with full-time paid Croke Park GAA officials acting as non-voting Secretary and Treasurer. All minutes of meetings and records of the Centre were kept in the Croke Park GAA offices. As well as that the Solicitors and the Auditors to the GAA in Croke Park became the Solicitors and Auditors for the Centre. As set out in the Constitution the controlling body of the Centre is the Centres Management Committee that are elected at the AGM every year, and the Management Committee some of whom are Trustees are legally obliged to protect the Centre. The Centre, according to the Constitution, is vested in Croke Park GAA Trustees who also have an obligation to protect the Centre for the members and community. However instead of protecting the Centre the Croke Park GAA want to throw the community out and knock the Centre, satisfying their selfish needs and not local community needs.
Sports Club Bar Licence added in I979
Croke Park officials were supportive of our Community and Handball Centre in the early years as it was where the main GAA Handball All-Ireland finals were played. However towards the end of the 70’s the GAA in Croke Park were anxious that the Centre would make more money as up to that time the GAA in Croke Park had been transferring money out of the Centre in lieu of money spent by Croke Park.
In 1979 the Centre added further social facilities and was granted a ‘Sports Club Bar Licence’. The social facilities are very important and families have built up friendships over the last 40 years. Our older people and special needs members love the atmosphere and safety of the place and enjoy the special events.
Never did a Garda squad car have to come to our Centre in all the years. The RTE Prime Time Team said it was one of the finest clubs they had ever visited and one said it brought back memories of the Irish Club in London with the music, comradery and the fun. The bar helped make the Centre financially independent and facilitates community charity fund-raisers as well. The Croke Park GAA continued transferring money out of the Centre and by 1988 the GAA in Croke Park had taken IR£110,000 (roughly €140,000) out of the Centre. This was a huge amount of money.
Relationship with Croke Park GAA sours in 1988 when VERY SERIOUS QUESTIONS are raised by our Centres Management Committee about the administration of our Centre provided by the Croke Park GAA
The relationship between the Croke Park GAA that provided the administration for the Centre and the Management Committee of the Centre turned sour in 1988 when very serious questions were raised by the Centre’s Management Committee about the administration provided by Croke Park GAA for the Centre. There was a major question about a big debt on our Centres Balance Sheet which Croke Park GAA officials refused to explain. It took ages to get the matter sorted and we achieved this despite Croke Park GAA misrepresentations and threats, including threats to our bar licence and bullying of our management committee; it turned out the GAA in Croke Park had kept our VAT money and not paid it to the revenue authorities for over 8 years. This was a disgraceful situation to have arisen. Around this time the Croke Park GAA had been complaining about VAT on hurleys while at the same time they kept our VAT money for 8 years. While providing the administration for our Centre up to 1988 the Croke Park GAA had not even registered for VAT. Yet the committee of our Centre was provided with accounts audited by the GAA auditor with no indication in the notes to the accounts that anything was amiss. To think then that we were bullied by the Croke Park GAA for insisting that this matter be rectified immediately was nothing short of preposterous. It is interesting that as we are now being sued by Pairc An Chrocaigh Teo, the GAA's company, the Croke Park GAA is now refusing to hand over all our records that they hold in the Croke Park offices and are insisting that we get our records by filing a motion through the courts and this is despite the fact that Rule 1.9 of the GAA prevents us, as GAA members, from seeking to do so as we are not supposed to get involved in legal actions with GAA units per Rule 1.9.
At this time also, 1988, a major development plan for Croke Park stadium had started and the first item on Croke Park’s agenda was to knock another local Handball Centre close to Hill 16 that was then serving as the Dublin County Handball Boards headquarters and was located across the road from our existing Centre. Being located so close there was a great interaction between both Centres handball-wise and from a social/supportive perspective.
Dublin Handball Board Headquarters after it was smashed up by Croke Park GAA in 1988
The Dublin handballers’ first indication that Croke Park GAA intended to take their Headquarters was when they read about it in the papers and they quickly organised to protect it and fought all the way to An Bord Pleanala (‘ABP’). The GAA had been trying to say then, just as they have said now in regard to our Centre, that the Dublin Handball Board Headquarters Handball Court was dilapidated and the Croke Park GAA agent brought a photograph of the back of the Handball Court to show to ABP; the back of the Handball Court had been hit with the loader of a bulldozer by a Croke Park GAA contractor before the An Bord Pleanala hearing and before Croke Park GAA really smashed the place up. However a structural report on the Handball Court commissioned by the Dublin handballers confirmed to ABP that the damage was caused by an ‘impact’, in addition to stating the building was in a good structural condition. This older centre had also been supported by the local Croke Park area community. We believe a video was taken of the destruction at the time that we are trying to get our hands on. This would really show the wanton damage that was done especially to the inside offices/sections.
'Croke Park Impact' ...... a load of BULL ... dozer.
Eventually Croke Park knocked the Dublin Board Handball Centre and it was agreed, in conjunction with the Management of the existing Community & Handball Centre, that Dublin handballers would be accommodated through membership of our existing Centre. The Croke Park GAA is now trying to knock our Centre as well. After 1988 it took another 10 years, an advertisement in the Irish Independent, and a few stories in Phoenix Magazine before compensation, in the form of a Trust Fund of IR£150,000, was put in place for the Dublin Handball Board in lieu of the loss of their headquarters centre.
However the increased involvement of the Dublin handballers in our Centre from 1989 on proved to be a great boost. At the time drugs was a serious issue for the community and an Anti-Drugs action group was set up with meetings at our Centre. It was agreed that expanding the range of activities of our Centre was also critical to keeping kids off the street and away from drugs. Thus mixed martial arts, shika-do, pool, arts & crafts and dancing classes were added to our activities, as well as more coaching of handball to local kids. Croke Park GAA provided no support whatsoever to these activities and even requested that the anti-drugs meetings not take place at our Centre. While that might have been the preference of Croke Park executives/staff that are now drawing over €6 million in salaries and remuneration and who lived away from the Croke Park area, the anti-drugs movement was very important to our kids and helped reduce the number of muggings of our older people.
2004 - Croke Park put 11 Bars into their Stadium but Object to the 1 Bar in the Community & Handball Centre. Taoiseach & politicians intervene.
From 1988 on, the total focus of the Croke Park GAA was to turn the Croke Park stadium into a money-making operation. By 1990, arising from settlement of the VAT issue, the Croke Park GAA agreed to not interfere in our Centres activities and to respect our Constitution. Occasionally we got a letter from Croke Park GAA asking if we would agree to keep our bar closed during a concert or big match because Croke Park GAA would want these to be non-alcohol ‘dry’ occasions. Of course more recently the Croke Park Stadium Alcohol-Free-Zone has mushroomed in to a stadium with no less than 11 bars. When this fact was brought to the attention of the An Bord Pleanala Inspector at an oral hearing in 2010 a Croke Park GAA executive intervened to say that the bars were called ‘refreshment stations’. Apparently the Croke Park GAA thinks 11 ‘refreshment stations’ (read ‘bars’) was appropriate for them but that our Community & Handball Centre should have none. As Croke Park Stadium expanded new executives were brought in and the relationship with local residents and their various ‘Residents Committees’ deteriorated rapidly, as explained by Pat Gates to RTE at 4m00s in video below.
Croke Park GAA having broken various agreements with the Residents Groups and undermining their leadership it was not long before the GAA’s greedy Croke Park company, Pairc An Chrocaigh Teo’s (‘PACT’) eyes focused on our Community & Handball Centre. They had already started buying up various properties in the Croke Park area and had set up various subsidiaries to make profit.
Sketch below shows some of the Properties ‘snapped up’ for €10m by Croke Park GAA - They are now trying to take our Centre located top right corner.
In 2004 Croke Park GAA tried to take control of our Centre using these tactics:
· calling in Fire Officers to seek to get our Centre condemned (..it is worth mentioning here that the Croke Park GAA’s hypocritical concern for our Centre’s safety never extended to them telling us exactly what they, the Croke Park GAA, thought was wrong or dangerous about our Centre - this fact was not lost on us).
· going to the district court to object to our Sports Club Bar Licence.
· sending an eviction notice to their own GAA Handball Council to get out of our Centre, even though the GAA Handball Council did not occupy our Centre or any part of it, as if that somehow would get rid of us – the GAA Handball Council totally dependent on the GAA for funds usually do what the GAA tell them to do.
The GAA in Croke Park through their company PACT, because they had donated the land for the building of our Centre, went to the District Court to seek to object to our Sports Club Bar Licence renewal. PACT reckoned if they could obstruct our licence they could destroy our centres finances. The late Tony Gregory TD described this PACT action as the action of heartless b*****s who had no regard for the community or the old people that totally depended on the Centre. All sports clubs must renew their licence every year. The judge told the GAA lawyers to sit down and requested the Community & Handball Secretary who was a full time GAA Croke Park official that provided the administration for our Centre, to appear in Court to confirm his signature to our application. He refused to do so, even when the judge extended the time to enable him to appear, and our Centre lost its licence. Because of all this the Taoiseach and all local politicians intervened. After 9 long months of hardship and unbelievable duress we got our Sports Club Bar Licence back, though not before one individual had stated that he was going to withdraw from the process because of the dishonourable behaviour of the Croke Park GAA. An agreement was signed stating that ‘full replacement facilities’ would be provided if the Croke Park GAA/PACT ever needed our Centre in the future. In the Summer of 2005 a Newsletter was sent out by the Croke Park GAA to the local Croke Park area community promising full replacement facilities, including Sports Club Bar facilities, and those that warned that the Croke Park GAA might not do so were represented in the Newsletter as putting out ‘misinformation’.
2010: District Court judge informed GAA Lawyers their approach was draconian and the Judge granted renewal of our Centre’s Sports Club Bar Licence
Despite the agreement in the period between 2005 and 2012 the Croke Park GAA through PACT continued, in the minds of our Management Committee, to bully our committee and create difficulties for our Community & Handball Centre and again objected many times to our Centres Sports Club Bar Licence renewal. The District Court judge finally informed the GAA lawyers that their approach was draconian and the Judge granted renewal of our Sports Club Bar Licence in spite of Croke Park GAA/PACT objections.
June 2011: Croke Park GAA/PACT sends Solicitors Letter to our Committee ordering us to get out of our Centre. However shortly after that the Croke Park GAA used a Garda Inspector to seek a meeting saying Croke Park GAA wanted 'peace to break out' when a ‘Take That’ concert is threatened with injunction by our members. The Croke Park GAA then entered into what now looks to have been no more than superficial negotiations until they had what they wanted.
On June 2nd 2011 Croke Park GAA/PACT sent a solicitors letter to order us out of our Centre. Also on June 18/19 2011 Croke Park were having two ‘Take That’ Concerts. Community members threatened to injunct the second ‘Take That’ concert because Croke Park are only allowed 3 events a year and they already had Jedward playing twice that year in Croke Park.
Then all of a sudden, on June 10th 2011, the GAA wanted ‘Peace' to break out and revealed at a meeting involving the Garda Inspector that they did not wish to build a New World Handball Centre on our existing site at all and revealed instead that they wanted to do a development at the Canal End of Croke Park in partnership with Dublin City Council and that this had been the plan for some time .... but we were told this plan was to be all totally confidential. We were enraged that our community and committees had been put through so much worry due to the threats by Croke Park GAA/PACT to seek to demolish, re-develop at a proposed cost of €9m and take control of our Centre when their real plan was something else altogether. Indeed any one with half a brain would have thought that spending €9m to build FIVE handball courts and open office space for 40 people (supposedly all full-time handball staff) was highly suspect. Amazingly in 2012 the GAA put up 12 handball courts and a number of one-wall courts in City West Dublin for the world handball championships at a total cost of circa €650,000. No wonder then that the An Bord Pleanala inspector stated that the GAA proposal to demolish and redevelop our Centre was NOT CREDIBLE in absolute or relative terms. The ABP inspector also pointed out that from a community perspective there would be major loss to our community by virtue of the Croke Park proposal .... so much for the Croke Park GAA representing themselves as a community organisation.
Anyway with a senior Garda involved and he now chairing the meetings, and after consultation with a number of our community representatives, we decided to work with everybody ... surely the Croke Park GAA would not breach our trust in a process that they had now initiated through a senior Garda. Croke Park GAA/PACT also told us they wanted local community appeals to An Bord Pleanala to their ‘Roof-Top Tours’ project withdrawn and in what they called a gesture of goodwill offered €10,000 (later reduced to €8,000) as a grant to refurbish our Community & Handball Centre if we co-operated. Because the Croke Park GAA representatives specifically refused our request for a grant at the first meeting and then, through one of their representatives, offered us a grant the next day if we agreed to withdraw our appeal against their roof-top tours planning application we as Community representatives felt compelled to inform the Garda of this development and we further informed the Garda that appeals to planning withdrawal could only be considered on the basis of Community Planning Gain and that if the GAA (the meetings were with senior GAA officials) were serious they should propose an agreement and set this out in writing.
To facilitate these discussions, at the request of the Croke Park GAA, it was agreed that the Oral Hearing with ABP was deferred. However the GAA despite saying at meetings with us that they did not need the planning now to demolish our Centre were at the same time writing to ABP asking why a decision had not been made .... this was something we found out later.
August 4th 2011 GAA sent the agreement as requested but later refused to follow through on their proposed agreement which read as follows:
4th August 2011
Interim agreement between Cumann Luthchleas Gael and the IHSCC and others
· The IHSCC and others agree to withdraw their objections to Roof Top Tours currently before An Bord Pleanála for oral hearing on August 15th and further they agree to positively support the development of Croke Villas as a sustainable urban village.
· Cumann Luthchleas Gael (CLG) agrees that whilst the Croke Villas development is in progress, the IHSCC will continue to use the Handball Centre on St. Josephs Avenue.
· CLG agreed to provide a goodwill grant of €8,000 to the IHSCC for the purpose of redecorating the existing centre.
· CLG agree to include a local labour charter into the contracts associated with the development of Croke Villas.
· CLG commit maintaining a substantial community fund for local enhancements and would welcome any suggestions from the IHSCC as to worthy projects.
· CLG commit to negotiating with the IHSCC appropriate replacement community facilities to be an integral part of the Croke Villas development. CLG are not prescriptive as to the nature of these facilities save that they respect the wishes of the community as a whole. This process must be concluded by October 31st 2011.
· Both parties acknowledge that this interim agreement is the start of a process, with the objective of drawing up an accord that recognises the important supportive role the local community can have in Croke Park Stadium and the corresponding role Croke Park Stadium must have in contributing to the meaningful improvements to their neighbours.
However as anyone that put legal agreements together will know the foregoing proposed agreement needed to be documented more fully so as to be a binding legal agreement. The community representatives did so and then sent it back to the GAA for further discussion and fine tuning if required.
August 10th 2011: An Bord Pleanala gave the GAA planning permission to demolish our Centre despite the fact that their own Planning Inspector failed the GAA proposal on no less than 9 grounds and after the inspector reviewed it under 2 different development plans which of itself was unprecedented .... especially as ABP had sat on their Inspectors report for 8 months. This major delay in itself by the ABP Board was in breach of the Department of Environment guidelines .... and the Boards decision to ignore their own inspector's recommendation in so far as she failed the GAA proposal on 9 different grounds, including one aspect failed on health & safety, was exceptional.
By now of course the GAA’s second ‘Take That’ concert had gone ahead. After the GAA got planning permission in August 2011 and when the GAA were sent back a version of their proposed agreement put into a legal format (for instance explaining the reasons for entering the agreement and setting out how the objectives of the parties would be achieved) that was non duplicitous and precise and set out in a suitable format for signing the GAA did not want to know about it. They would not even discuss it and the most senior GAA official did not turn up for the meeting held after a properly structured legal agreement was sent to the GAA in Croke Park.
Instead in December 2011 before Christmas they issued legal proceedings against all the members of the Centres Management Committee suing them individually and on behalf of all the members of our Centre and suing as Trustees the members of the Committee that were Trustees. We and our families are now defending ourselves against this action.