Jarlath Burns says that allowing the Gaelic Players’ Association (GPA) have a seat on Croke Park’s powerful Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) would have harmed the body’s ‘fairness and equality’.
The GPA put a proposal to the GAA’s Annual Congress in Wexford calling for the players’ organisation to be represented on the CCCC – the GAA’s primary fixture-making and disciplinary body.
Even though they insisted they only wanted input on the CCCC on inter-county issues and wouldn’t influence disciplinary decisions, the motion was heavily defeated.
Former Armagh captain Burns spoke against the GPA’s proposal and in a hard-hitting interview with RTÉ’s Brian Carthy he accused them of making ‘all sorts of noises’ in relation to their involvement on another GAA committee.
"Our county spoke about this during the week and we decided that we were going to vote against it and that I was going to speak (at congress)," he said.
"The main reason is; all of the other committees in the GAA can be open to influence and consultation with the president who appoints them.
"The president always makes clear that there is one committee which is absolutely independent and free of any vested interested whatsoever and that’s the CCCC, particularly with regards to fixtures and adjudications that they might make.
"We felt that the GPA coming in might compromise that. That committee has to take decisions that are often unpopular without fear or favour."
Burns used the example of the GAA’s Standing Committee on Playing Rules, which proposed the controversial recent changes to football, including the three hand-pass limit which was eventually ditched.
The GPA were represented on this committee by their president David Collins. Yet after the period of rules experimentation began, the GPA consulted their membership and came out strongly against a number of the rules – particularly the hand-pass limit.
Burns said: "The GPA had a representative on the current standing committee that made proposed rule changes in football for the League and they still saw fit to ballot their players and whenever they saw that the players were against it they saw fit to seek a meeting with the president and made all sorts of noises.
"I felt that was disrespectful to the governance of the Association, the integrity of those decisions and I felt it was wrong. I could see this as a precursor to other statements that they might make if they felt decisions made by CCCC didn’t meet with their approval.
"I believe that the GPA do a fantastic job operationally. I have a son on the Armagh panel who would speak very highly of the GPA and I would as well – I’m not in any way against them. I just feel that we have to give the same equality to all our units," he said.
"If you look at our units, you have clubs, counties and provinces, and having the four secretaries of the provinces on the CCCC means that all of the interests of our units are equally served."