GAA president calls for legislation to combat online abuse at players
"Could abuse in online forums be treated in the same way that misinformation about political events was?"
GAA president Larry McCarthy has called on the Government to consider introducing legislation to tackle social media abuse, not just to GAA players, but all amateur sportspeople.
Speaking at the GAA Air Dome in Mayo, McCarthy raised the point that the people on the end of these abusive messages are not professionals.
He also addressed particularly aggressive and personal messages that were directed to the Mayo players after their defeat to Tyrone in the 2021 All-Ireland final.
“The question becomes what can we as an Association do about it? Given that we are at heart a sport organisation, I believe that the protection of amateur athletes and officials, in particular GAA, LGFA and Camogie players, through legislation should be investigated.
"The legislation would penalise severe, personal, and excessive criticism of amateur athletes and volunteers.
“A Protection of Volunteers in Amateur Sport Act might be considered by the Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media.
"This could entail the design and implementation of a means to initially identify, and then penalise, people who abuse amateur athletes and volunteer sport officials.
“One might ask ‘why only amateurs?’ Amateur athletes and officials return to their communities after their games, they are back at work shortly after their games, and, unlike professional athletes, are not the beneficiaries of practised support when they are the focus of such criticism.
"The very nature of amateur sport suggests that they are the most vulnerable. I acknowledge the difficulty in dealing with multinational conglomerates in the identification process, and that there may be a fundamental peril in the danger of restricting speech in a democratic society.
"But is Irish society at a point where a formal, legislated, deterrent of social media abuse is warranted?
“Is the amateur player and official, and by extension the amateur ethos of the GAA, LGFA and Camogie Association, worth protecting, not completely at the expense of freedom of speech, but in a form that will prevent the continuation of abuse?
"Could abuse in online forums be treated in the same way that misinformation about political events was? Without knowing the technicalities of the process, it would appear that it is at least worth consideration at a formal level.”