Rule 21

Last updated

Rule 21 of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) was a rule in force from 1897 to 2001 which banned members of the British security forces from membership of the GAA and thus from playing Gaelic games. The affected organisations included the British Armed Forces and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), and prior to partition the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and Dublin Metropolitan Police. As well as the RUC in Northern Ireland, it also applied to police forces in Great Britain, which affected London GAA and the other British GAA affiliates. Rule 21 stated: [1] [2]

Gaelic Athletic Association Irish amateur sporting and cultural organisation

The Gaelic Athletic Association is an Irish international amateur sporting and cultural organisation, focused primarily on promoting indigenous Gaelic games and pastimes, which include the traditional Irish sports of hurling, camogie, Gaelic football, Gaelic handball and rounders. The association also promotes Irish music and dance, as well as the Irish language.

Security Forces is an umbrella term frequently used to describe statutory organisations with internal security mandates. In the legal context of several nations, the term has variously denoted police and military units working in concert, or the role of military and paramilitary forces tasked with the internal provision of public security.

Gaelic games Set of sports originating, and mainly played, on the island of Ireland

Gaelic games are sports played in Ireland under the auspices of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). Gaelic football and hurling are the two main games. Other games organised by the GAA include Gaelic handball and rounders.


Members of the British armed forces or police shall not be eligible for membership of the Association.
A member of the Association participating in dances, or similar entertainment, promoted by or under the patronage of such bodies, shall incur suspension of at least three months.

The rule was abolished after the establishment of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) as part of the Northern Ireland peace process.

Police Service of Northern Ireland police service for Northen Ireland

The Police Service of Northern Ireland is the police force that serves Northern Ireland. It is the successor to the Royal Ulster Constabulary after it was reformed and renamed in 2001 on the recommendation of the Patten Report.

The Northern Ireland peace process is often considered to cover the events leading up to the 1994 Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) ceasefire, the end of most of the violence of the Troubles, the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, and subsequent political developments.


Rule 21 was introduced in 1897 and reflected the rise of "advanced nationalism", with the GAA and other Irish nationalist organisations founded in the Gaelic revival becoming more politicised and separatist in the build-up to the revolutionary period. [3] [4] It was intended to allay fears that RIC members were joining GAA clubs to spy on members' political activities. [3] It was overshadowed by the introduction in 1901 of Rule 27, commonly called "The Ban", which prohibited GAA members from playing "foreign games" like soccer and rugby union. [4] [5] [6] In 1938 Douglas Hyde, recently inaugurated as first President of Ireland, was removed as Patron of the GAA after attending an Irish soccer international. [4] After Rule 27 was abolished in 1971, it was Rule 21 and Rule 42, which prohibited foreign games being played at GAA grounds, which were the focus of debate. [5] [7]

Irish nationalism Political movement asserting the sovereignty of the Irish people

Irish nationalism is a nationalist political movement which asserts that the Irish people are a nation and espouses the creation of a sovereign Irish nation-state on the island of Ireland. Irish nationalism celebrates the culture of Ireland, especially the Irish language, literature, music, and sports. It grew more potent during the period in which all of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom, which led to most of the island seceding from the UK in 1921.

Gaelic revival resurgence ot interest in the Irish language in the 19th century

The Gaelic revival was the late-nineteenth-century national revival of interest in the Irish language and Irish Gaelic culture. Irish had diminished as a spoken tongue, remaining the main daily language only in isolated rural areas, with English having become the dominant language in the majority of Ireland.

A common definition of separatism is that it is the advocacy of a state of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group. While it often refers to full political secession, separatist groups may seek nothing more than greater autonomy. While some critics may equate separatism with religious segregation, racist segregation, or sexist segregation, most separatists argue that separation by choice may serve useful purposes and is not the same as government-enforced segregation. There is some academic debate about this definition, and in particular how it relates to secessionism, as has been discussed online.

Northern Ireland

After the 1922 creation of the Irish Free State, Rule 21 continued to apply in Northern Ireland. Its strongest supporters were physical force republicans, and during the Troubles the GAA was suspected by many unionists of collusion with the Provisional IRA and other paramilitaries. [8] [6] While some advocates of Rule 21 were opposed to any engagement with "Crown forces", others linked it to alleged targeting by the security forces of the GAA, in particular the occupation of part of Crossmaglen Rangers' grounds by a British Army base, which disrupted matches and other events there. [9] One player affected by the ban was Brian McCargo from Ardoyne, who played for Antrim county team before being obliged to quit in 1969 after joining the RUC Reserve, during a period after the abolition of the B Specials when some Catholic community leaders were encouraging Catholics to join the revised force. [10] Sean McNulty from Warrenpoint won an All-Ireland minor medal in 1977 but joined the RUC in 1982. [11] The Sports Council for Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland Department of Education made funding grants to GAA bodies while Rule 21 was in force, but at a lower level than would otherwise have been the case. [12]

Irish Free State Sovereign state in northwest Europe (1922–1937), Dominion status to 1922, succeeded by Ireland

The Irish Free State was a state established in 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921. That treaty ended the three-year Irish War of Independence between the forces of the self-proclaimed Irish Republic, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and British Crown forces.

Physical force Irish republicanism (PFIR) is the recurring appearance of a non-parliamentary violent insurrection in Ireland between 1798 and the present. It is often described as a rival to parliamentary nationalism which for most of the period drew the predominant amount of support from Irish nationalists.

The Troubles Ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland

The Troubles was an ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland during the late 20th century. Also known internationally as the Northern Ireland conflict and the Irish conflict it is sometimes described as an "irregular war" or "low-level war". The conflict began in the late 1960s and is usually deemed to have ended with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Although the Troubles primarily took place in Northern Ireland, at times the violence spilled over into parts of the Republic of Ireland, England, and mainland Europe.


During the Northern Ireland peace process, abolishing Rule 21 was advocated by unionists, political leaders in the Republic, and the Independent Commission on Policing in Northern Ireland, whose report led to the replacement of the RUC by the PSNI. [8] [13] This was for two reasons: to boost nationalist trust of the police, and to improve unionist trust of the GAA. Nationalists were underrepresented in the RUC, contributing to a self-sustaining cycle of mistrust of it as unionist-biased; on the other hand, unionists saw Rule 21 as evidence of the GAA's support for republican violence. If the GAA ended its prohibition on membership, a reformed police force would be more likely to attract nationalist recruits. The prospect of unionist police officers joining the GAA was not a major consideration. [11]

Republic of Ireland Country in Europe on the island of Ireland

Ireland, also known as the Republic of Ireland, is a country in north-western Europe occupying 26 of 32 counties of the island of Ireland. The capital and largest city is Dublin, which is located on the eastern side of the island. Around a third of the country's population of 4.9 million people resides in the greater Dublin area. The sovereign state shares its only land border with Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom. It is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the Celtic Sea to the south, St George's Channel to the south-east, and the Irish Sea to the east. It is a unitary, parliamentary republic. The legislature, the Oireachtas, consists of a lower house, Dáil Éireann, an upper house, Seanad Éireann, and an elected President who serves as the largely ceremonial head of state, but with some important powers and duties. The head of government is the Taoiseach, who is elected by the Dáil and appointed by the President; the Taoiseach in turn appoints other government ministers.

Motions at the GAA congress to change a given rule can only be raised once every three years and require a two-thirds majority of delegates. [14] Motion 43 submitted to the 1995 annual congress proposed to remove Rule 21, but was withdrawn before any debate. [14] [15] As a compromise for withdrawing motion 43, congress agreed that a special congress could be called in future purely to vote on Rule 21. [14] Such a congress was held in the Burlington Hotel on 30 May 1998, shortly after the Good Friday Agreement. [16] After a debate closed to the public, it rejected immediate abolition due to strong opposition from the Ulster Council, but resolved to remove it "when effective steps are taken to implement amended structures and policing arrangements envisaged in the British/Irish peace agreement". [8] [16] [2] [1] Another special congress in Citywest abolished it, on 17 November 2001, two weeks after the PSNI was established. [1] [17] Seán McCague, the GAA president, was personally in favour and all delegates from the Republic supported abolition; although only Down GAA of the six Northern Ireland counties voted in favour, the Ulster delegates felt the establishment of the PSNI had sufficiently altered the situation not to make more than a token objection. [18] [1] A poll of Northern nationalists found that 57% supported abolition, with 25% opposed. [19]

Burlington Hotel (Dublin) Hotel in Dublin, Ireland

The Clayton Hotel Burlington Road, known as the Burlington Hotel, is a hotel in Dublin, Ireland. Opened in 1972 and nicknamed "the Burlo" by Dubliners, it is the largest hotel in central Dublin, and the second largest in County Dublin after the CityWest Hotel.

The Good Friday Agreement (GFA) or Belfast Agreement was a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process of the 1990s. Northern Ireland's present devolved system of government is based on the agreement. The agreement also created a number of institutions between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

The Ulster Council is a Provincial council of the Gaelic Athletic Association sports of hurling, Gaelic football, camogie, and handball in the province of Ulster. The headquarters of the Ulster GAA is based in Armagh City.

The British Universities GAA joined the British Universities Sports Association in February 2002; its application had been rejected five times before the abolition of Rule 21. [20] A PSNI GAA club was founded in 2002 and since that year has played an annual Gaelic football match against the Garda GAA for the Thomas St George McCarthy Cup, called after an RIC officer who was a founder member of the GAA in 1884. [21] After Ronan Kerr was killed in 2011 by dissident republicans, his Beragh Red Knights GAC teammates bore his coffin before passing it to his PSNI colleagues. [22] In 2015, the British army regiment, the Irish Guards formed Irish Guards GAA to take part in London junior championships. [23]

Related Research Articles

Royal Ulster Constabulary former police force in Northern Ireland

The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) was the police force in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 2001. It was founded on 1 June 1922 as a successor to the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). At its peak the force had around 8,500 officers with a further 4,500 who were members of the RUC Reserve. During the Troubles, 319 members of the RUC were killed and almost 9,000 injured in paramilitary assassinations or attacks, mostly by the Provisional IRA, which made the RUC, by 1983, the most dangerous police force in the world in which to serve. In the same period, the RUC killed 55 people, 28 of whom were civilians.

Ulster Special Constabulary organization

The Ulster Special Constabulary was a quasi-military reserve special constable police force in Northern Ireland. It was set up in October 1920, shortly before the partition of Ireland. It was an armed corps, organised partially on military lines and called out in times of emergency, such as war or insurgency. It performed this role in 1920–22 during the Irish War of Independence and in the 1950s, during the IRA Border Campaign.

Free Derry

Free Derry was a self-declared autonomous nationalist area of Derry, Northern Ireland, that existed between 1969 and 1972. Its name was taken from a sign painted on a gable wall in the Bogside in January 1969 which read, "You are now entering Free Derry". The area, which included the Bogside and Creggan neighbourhoods, was secured by community activists for the first time on 5 January 1969 following an incursion into the Bogside by members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). Residents built barricades and carried clubs and similar arms to prevent the RUC from entering. After six days the residents took down the barricades and RUC patrols resumed, but tensions remained high over the following months.

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was an organisation that campaigned for civil rights in Northern Ireland during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Formed in Belfast on 9 April 1967, the civil rights campaign attempted to achieve reform by publicising, documenting, and lobbying for an end to discrimination in areas such as elections, discrimination in employment, in public housing and alleged abuses of the Special Powers Act. The genesis of the organisation lay in a meeting in Maghera in August 1966 between the Wolfe Tone Societies which was attended by Cathal Goulding, then chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

The following directory lists and provides links to articles about the Troubles.

Operation Banner British Armed Forces operation in Northern Ireland from August 1969 to July 2007

Operation Banner was the operational name for the British Armed Forces' operation in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 2007, as part of the Troubles. It was the longest continuous deployment in British military history. The British Army was initially deployed, at the request of the unionist government of Northern Ireland, in response to the August 1969 riots. Its role was to support the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and to assert the authority of the British government in Northern Ireland. This involved counter-insurgency and supporting the police in carrying out internal security duties such as guarding key points, mounting checkpoints and patrols, carrying out raids and searches, riot control and bomb disposal. More than 300,000 soldiers served in Operation Banner. At the peak of the operation in the 1970s, about 21,000 British troops were deployed, most of them from Britain. As part of the operation, a new locally-recruited regiment was also formed: the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR).

Aidan McAnespie was a nationalist and Sinn Fein activist who was murdered by Crown Forces at the Aughnacloy, County Tyrone border checkpoint in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

1969 Northern Ireland riots Series of political and sectarian riots, August 1969

During 12–16 August 1969, there was an outbreak of political and sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, which is often seen as the beginning of the thirty-year conflict known as the Troubles. There had been sporadic violence throughout the year arising out of the civil rights campaign, which demanded an end to discrimination against Catholics and Irish nationalists. Civil rights marches had been repeatedly attacked by Ulster Protestant loyalists and also came into frequent conflict with the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the overwhelmingly Protestant police force.

The National Athletic and Cycling Association, from 1990 the National Athletic and Cycling Association of Ireland was a federation of sports clubs in the island of Ireland practising athletics or bicycle racing or both. It existed from 1922 to 2000, though for most of the period it was not the sole governing body in Ireland for either sport. Its refusal to recognise the partition of Ireland got it expelled from the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) and the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). Clubs formerly in the NACAI are now affiliated to Athletics Ireland or Cycling Ireland, each formed by the merger of the NACAI with rival bodies respectively affiliated to the IAAF and the UCI.

This is a chronology of activities by the Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA), an Irish republican paramilitary group. The group started operations in 1994, after the Provisional Irish Republican Army began a ceasefire.

Seán McCague served as the 33rd President of the Gaelic Athletic Association (2000–2003). McCague was born in Scotstown, County Monaghan and became the first Monaghan man to hold that office.

This is a timeline of actions by the Real Irish Republican Army, also called the Real IRA, an Irish republican paramilitary group. The group was formed in late 1997 by members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army who disagreed with that organisation's ceasefire. Since June 2012, following a merger between Republican Action Against Drugs, the Real IRA and smaller republican militant groups, the new organisation has commonly been referred to as the New IRA.

GAA Congress is an annual gathering of the Gaelic Athletic Association in which changes to the rule book, the Official Guide, may be undertaken, where the year is reviewed, and a new President of the association formally takes office. It is a democratic meeting in which delegates from GAA county boards and provincial councils have speaking and voting rights.

Dissident Irish Republican campaign Anti-UK insurgency in Ireland

The dissident Irish republican campaign began at the end of the Troubles, a 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland. Since the Provisional Irish Republican Army called a ceasefire and ended its campaign in 1997, breakaway groups opposed to the ceasefire and to the peace agreements have continued a low-level armed campaign against the security forces in Northern Ireland. The main paramilitaries involved are the Real IRA, Continuity IRA and Óglaigh na hÉireann. They have targeted the Northern Irish police and the British Army in gun and bomb attacks, as well as with mortars and rockets. They have also carried out bombings that are meant to cause disruption. However, their campaign has not been as intensive as the Provisional IRA's.

1997 Northern Ireland riots

From 6 to 11 July 1997 there were mass protests, fierce riots and gun battles in Irish nationalist districts of Northern Ireland. Irish nationalists/republicans, in some cases supported by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), attacked the police and British Army. The protests and violence were sparked by the decision to allow the Orange Order to march through a Catholic/nationalist neighbourhood of Portadown. Irish nationalists were outraged by the decision and by the RUC's aggressive treatment of those protesting against the march. There had been a bitter dispute over the march for many years.

Police Service of Northern Ireland GAA, also known as PSNI GAA, is a Gaelic Games club based in Northern Ireland. The club was set up in 2002 for members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, with the intent to allow serving police officers to play Gaelic games following the abolition of Rule 21, which had prohibited them from doing so. They are based at Newforge Lane in Belfast alongside other teams affiliated with the RUC Athletic Association. They are affiliated with Antrim GAA and play in their Inter-Firms League.

Irish Guards GAA

Irish Guards GAA, also known as Naomh Padraig, is a British gaelic games club based in London, England. They are the representative Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) team of the British Army regiment, the Irish Guards and the first British army club in Gaelic football after the lifting of a ban on members of the British military playing Gaelic games. They are affiliated to the London GAA and were founded in 2015.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Breheny, Martin (19 November 2001). "Rule 21 goes quietly into history books". Irish Independent . Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  2. 1 2 "GAA's Rule 21: November 17, 2001". Irish Independent . 18 January 2014. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  3. 1 2 Bushe, Andrew (16 February 2011). "GAA delegates vote to allow cops, soldiers". Irish Echo . Retrieved 26 August 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 "Articles on the history of the GAA > The Removal of Douglas Hyde as Patron of the Association, 1938". Library & Archive. GAA Museum. Archived from the original on 5 September 2015. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  5. 1 2 Sweeney, Eamonn (2012-10-04). O'Brien Pocket History of Gaelic Sport. O'Brien Press. pp. 11–13. ISBN   9781847175212 . Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  6. 1 2 Nauright, John (2012-04-06). "Gaelic Athletic Association". Sports around the World: History, Culture, and Practice. ABC-CLIO. pp. 91–92. ISBN   9781598843019 . Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  7. Finegan, Shane (27 May 2011). "The role played by Tom Woulfe in the campaign (1959–1971) to remove the Ban on Foreign Games (Rule 27) from the rulebook of the GAA" (PDF). Winners of Secondary School Essay Competition. GAA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  8. 1 2 3 Cronin, Mike (Fall 1999). "Ignoring Postcolonialism: The Gaelic Athletic Association and the Language of Colony". Jouvert: A Journal of Postcolonial Studies. North Carolina State University: College of the Humanities and Social Sciences. 4 (1: Ireland 2000). Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  9. Hassan, D. (2005). "The Gaelic Athletic Association, Rule 21, and Police Reform in Northern Ireland". Journal of Sport & Social Issues. 29 (1): 60–78. doi:10.1177/0193723504268731. ISSN   0193-7235.
  10. "No regrets as a Catholic in the RUC". BBC Online . 21 December 2001. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  11. 1 2 "Support divided as GAA consider lifting controversial rule 21 ban". The Irish Times . 17 November 2001. Retrieved 26 August 2015. few seriously believe British soldiers or members of Northern Ireland's brand new police service will be queuing up outside GAA clubs after the weekend
  12. Sugden, John; Scott Harvie (1995). "Sport and Community Relations in Northern Ireland". CAIN. pp. 1.5.2 – Gaelic Sport. Retrieved 25 August 2015. Official funding for the GAA has been forthcoming through the Department of Education for Northern Ireland (DENI) and the Sports Council for Northern Ireland but has been limited by the continued existence of Rule 21 which excludes members of Northern Ireland’s security forces from joining.(24) This rule means that Gaelic organisations are treated by the government as clubs with restricted membership. As such they are only entitled to between 50% and 33.5% grant aid towards the cost of facilities development.
  13. Independent Commission On Policing For Northern Ireland (9 September 1999). "Recruitment" (PDF). A New Beginning: Policing in Northern Ireland - The Report of the Independent Commission on Policing in Northern Ireland. p. 89; §15.2. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  14. 1 2 3 Moran, Sean (4 January 1996). "Central Council hold key to new Rule 21 debate". The Irish Times . Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  15. "Will Rule 21 Be Debated at GAA Congress?". RTÉ Archives. RTÉ. 1995. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  16. 1 2 "1998". Chronology of the Conflict. CAIN. pp. Saturday 30 May 1998. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  17. "Chronology of the Conflict 2001". CAIN. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  18. Foley, Cliona (30 October 2001). "GAA set to decommission Rule 21". Irish Independent . Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  19. "GAA faces North-South battle on move to drop security forces ban". The Irish Times . 27 May 1998. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  20. Darby, Paul; Hassan, David (2013-10-18). Emigrant Players: Sport and the Irish Diaspora. Routledge. p. 87. ISBN   9781317968450 . Retrieved 26 August 2015.
  21. "PSNI lined up for historic Croker date with Garda". Belfast Telegraph . 9 November 2009. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  22. Moriarty, Gerry (7 April 2011). "Symbolism potent as local GAA club members pass coffin to police officers". The Irish Times . Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  23. "GAA accepts first British Army team". BBC News. 2015-09-15.