DEMOCRATIC Centralism is a form of democracy still widely practiced amongst various organisations and political bodies. One its most notable outcomes is its very distinct lack of democracy.
Democratic Centralism (DC) occurs where the leadership of any organisation is not directly elected by the membership but by delegates.
Thus Bertie Ahern came to be leader of Fianna Fail. He was elected by members of the parliamentary party. His elevation to Taoiseach wasn’t, of course, a direct election by those who he has to govern either.
The Labour Party has ditched DC in leadership elections and Pat Rabbitte was directly elected by party members. However, this is a minority approach and most organisations in Ireland still seem to have one hierarchy electing a higher hierarchy.
So the GAA can’t be singled out for its reliance on DC. But it has fallen victim to the great negative in this system. That is, power rests in the middle to upper ranks of the organisation. Once a clique of people become entrenched in their positions it is almost impossible to shift them. So too with ideology and DC organisations are usually out of step with their membership.
This is definitely the case when it comes to the opening up of Croke Park. From what I hear in dressing rooms, backed by the recent Irish Times poll which found that 80% of the general population in favour of opening up Croke Park, the GAA membership overwhelmingly want to allow other sports into HQ.
The nomenclatura don’t want change and are in a position to thwart the will of the membership. The solution is obvious. The leadership should be directly elected by the membership of the GAA.
The current federal structure of Congress and the Central Council means that we now have the equivalent of the ‘rotten boroughs’ of the 1800’s. Each county sends 5-10 representatives to Congress based on the number of clubs. Needless to say that Dublin, where a club could have a membership of up to a thousand people, has proportionately very little influence.
The outcome is a skew toward the views of those older and more rural. This is not right, is not representative and is not sustainable into the future.
The good name of the GAA is being dragged into the mud by the refusal of the leadership to reflect the democratic will of the membership. Radical change is needed.
Should I join the GPA?
I AM a member of the Cavan senior hurling squad. A lowly member, I should add.
I have been asked to join the Gaelic Players Association and I’m in two minds about it. I don’t like the idea of one group within a voluntary organisation pitting itself against the rest of the membership.
On the other hand representative democracy in the GAA is dire (see the rest of the column).
Until there is broader legitimacy for the leadership of the GAA, I think I’ll be signing up.