During a special 32 county congress meeting in the Citywest Hotel in Dublin, the Gaelic Athletic Association voted in favour of the abolition of Rule 21 by a clear and overwhelming majority.
In the rule-book since 1903, Rule 21 banned members of the British army and police-force can as well as members of the security forces in Northern Ireland from joining GAA clubs and taking part in Gaelic games.
The media was kept outside during the historic debate and vote. Six delegates spoke from clubs in Counties Tyrone, Antrim and Armagh, along with former GAA President Pat Fanning and the current President Seán McCague.
As county boards had mandated their delegates to vote in a particular way, the result was a seen as a foregone conclusion. Former GAA president Paddy McFlynn says
The mood was on for a change and then as well as that when we had only five counties really taking an opposite view, it was very obvious what was going to happen.
Offaly County Board Secretary Christy Todd says of the result
It's a major step for the GAA but we believe it's a step in the right direction.
Donegal County Secretary Noreen Doherty is also pleased with the result.
Democracy ruled and the rule is gone.
President Seán McCague says the decision made by the delegates means
We've no necessity for the exclusion rule going forward from here. That was the decision of the majority of the delegates present. And it is now gone, so it's a matter of history.
The decision to remove Rule 21 was also welcomed by the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the Northern Secretary Dr John Reid.
An RTÉ News report by Marty Morrissey was broadcast on 17 November 2001.