Martin Kiely Column - Limerick County Board won’t silence me

Limerick GAA chairman Oliver Mann
In this week’s Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely responds to the criticism he received from Limerick GAA chairman Oliver Mann.

In this week’s Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely responds to the criticism he received from Limerick GAA chairman Oliver Mann.

As a result of a long standing invitation to a GAA event in Boston I was forced to miss what for me is a very important meeting on the affairs of the county. At that meeting the Chairman Oliver Mann decided it was time to vent his anger at me and the way I write about GAA matters in this page.

You see last Sunday was a big day for Oliver Mann. Although at the top table now for a few years this was the first time that he won an election so I can understand how winning provided him with a power surge. Power can be consuming in the hands of those who lack grace and humility. Last Sunday Mann appeared to show neither.

While I welcome criticism I would imagine that those in attendance in Ballylanders would have preferred to hear Mann’s vision for his chairmanship and the future development of Limerick GAA. He had just won the vote against Pat Heffernan but he also had a go at the Blackrock man who sat alongside him as Vice Chairman over the last two years.

The general comment from Oliver Mann was that he felt most of what is written in this page is negative and he spoke about the attack on the three main officers of the County Board. I have studied the demeanour of Oliver Mann since he joined the County Board. It took him some time to settle into the role and that’s normal but when questioned and pressed from the floor he demonstrates uneasiness in his style of response.

He may have been nervous going into last Sunday’s convention and unsure if he would win. I wrote some weeks ago that Pat Heffernan had missed the boat and should have gone for the position last year. Had he done so, he would have won. I also said that Mann would win and did so with a fair degree of comfort.

It’s pretty clear from his speech last Sunday that Oliver Mann does not want either himself or the County Board questioned. He said most of the media in Limerick are behind them and the comment on this page is the oexception which is very much against them. That of course is not the case but Oliver would like to have a submissive media, one that tells the County Board that they are great and no wrong can be seen.

We have seen much the same comments from church and state over the past 20 years where they told us no wrong took place. We now know that was not the case. We were also told that the Garda whistleblowers were out of line but we also know they were not.

Oliver Mann is not the first GAA official in Limerick to question me and I am sure he won’t be the last. When Oliver or the County Board are in a difficult place he rolls out the same old line of positivity and all going in the one direction for Limerick. This is the rally of the troop’s line and sadly it works on some occasions. But Oliver please deal with the facts and address constructively the very obvious concerns within your board.

When Pat Heffernan was defeated last Sunday he stood and delivered a speech that should be taken very seriously by any board. But instead Oliver Mann rejected his comments when he replied. Heffernan spoke about how secret meetings were taking place by some officers and also about the bonus structure for paid staff. It’s not the first time Heffernan has spoken on such issues and if the Vice Chairman is asking such questions and the Chairman rejects then I think most fair minded people would see that as a pretty worrying development.

Just over a year ago at a meeting in the Kilmurry Lodge Hotel the clubs had the top table in a major spin. They wanted a proposal put to the floor and speaker after speaker urged Oliver Mann to put the proposal to the floor but both he, Donal Morrissey and Mike O’Riordan would not comply with the wishes of the clubs. It was far from democratic.

That night the County Board was at its weakest but according to the County Chairman it’s negative if such matters are reported. A week later at a meeting in Claughaun the well respected Chairman of the Garryspillane club Jim Dooley said, “Mr Chairman you are not up to the job”. It was a bruising statement that showed just how angry the clubs were with the top table.

The last couple of years have seen some serious problems with managers and other issues but one gets the sense that Oliver Mann would prefer if they were not reported and that the way the County Board handled them were just brushed over.

Reporting the various mismanagements of the County Board is seen as negative according to Mann and he would much prefer if a blind eye was shown to such issues. Well I for one have no intention of playing the game according to the County Board rules.

I know firsthand the lengths that one man who sits on the County Board went to, to control me and if the County Chairman wants me to expand on this I will gladly do so but it could prove embarrassing for the official involved. When Oliver Mann became chairman I wished him well and called on him to be agenda setting and to take the County Board in a new direction but sadly we have seen very little of that.

He had and still has a chance to set high standards of administration for the County Board and by doing so leave a legacy that will serve Limerick long into the future

But when the messenger is seen as the problems then I don’t hold out much hope of this happening.

High achieving businesses, organisations and indeed individuals learn from their mistakes. They welcome criticism, reflect on it and rise to its challenge which in time makes them stronger and more competitive.

It appears Oliver Mann would rather shun constructive criticism, ignore the obvious and in doing so limit his potential and that of his board.