Members want control over Catholic Institute club

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Alan Owens

THE MEMBERS of Catholic Institute Athletic Club are seeking to regain control of the club from the office of the Bishop of Limerick, which has been the titular head of the club for nearly 60 years.

THE MEMBERS of Catholic Institute Athletic Club are seeking to regain control of the club from the office of the Bishop of Limerick, which has been the titular head of the club for nearly 60 years.

The Diocese of Limerick holds the title of the club and has “imposed certain conditions into the club’s constitution”, according to members, which include retaining the power to appoint the club’s president.

Members have outlined in a document, seen by the Limerick Leader, that to “suffer this type of control in this day and age is abominable”.

An EGM has been called for October 24 to replace and remove specific items in the club’s constitution which refer to the diocese’s control of the club.

Fr Donal McNamara, parish priest in St Munchin’s and long time member of the club, was the president of Catholic Institute until January of this year, when he resigned after a meeting of the governing body when these issues were raised. This has exacerbated the situation, according to members.

“Right now we can’t even appoint a president because the bishop has that right, until we remove it from the constitution,” explained club member Flan Brennan, who has proposed the changes to the club’s constitution.

“The diocese have not invested any money in the club and they want to retain control,” explained Mr Brennan. “We are upset, we would like to get more autonomy here.

“In this day and age, it is time to rejuvenate the club.”

The majority of members in the club are understood to support this sentiment.

A trustees meeting has been called to discuss these issues. The trustees of the club include current diocesan administrator Fr Tony Mullins and Fr Michael Wall, lecturer in Mary Immaculate College, as well as Fr McNamara, Fr Dan Neenan and Fr Liam Kelly.

An official comment was not available at the time of going to print from the trustees, but a source close to the diocese said it was a “historical situation that began life as one thing and had morphed into another situation” and said there had been “some to-ing and fro-ing” in recent months, but downplayed any notions of a stand-off developing between the parties.

The club was founded in 1910 by a group of Catholic businessmen who wanted their children to play what was considered then to be “Protestant sports” - cricket, hockey, tennis. This group purchased the land in Greenfields, Rosbrien and called themselves ‘debenture trustees’ of the land. However, a split in the club in 1950 led to a number of prominent members leaving, and it was decided to transfer the club into the ownership of the Catholic Bishop of Limerick, where it has remained.

However, in recent years, membership numbers have dwindled and members feel that an “overhaul” of the club is necessary.

“Generally people feel that the clubs needs a bit of updating, revising, an overhaul, it is in the doldrums a bit now,” explained Flan.

“It looks like a religious theme in the name of a club is maybe a hindrance nowadays. A name change is something that would have to go to the members, but the diocese would be opposed to that,” he added.

While numbers have declined in the club, hockey - particularly ladies hockey - is very strong, with the club recently completing a Munster Senior Women’s league and cup double. However, the club members themselves raised money and secured grants to build the astroturf pitch that has been instrumental in that success and feel that the church has not contributed in a similar vein.

An EGM was due to take place in April of this year, but solicitors for the diocese requested a postponement to allow for further discussions to take place. These are said to be ongoing, but members are frustrated with the delay and are now planning to go ahead with the EGM to attempt to change the terms of the club’s constitution.