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Dublin GAA chief slams RTÉ Prime Time funding programme in annual report

John Costello also called on the Government to address the lack of land available in the capital to develop facilities for GAA clubs.

John Costello with Johnny Cooper.
John Costello with Johnny Cooper.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

DUBLIN GAA SECRETARY John Costello has slammed RTÉ’s Prime Time for a programme the ran about the funding the county receives a week after their 2019 All-Ireland final replay win. 

Writing in his annual report, Costello questioned the “standards” and “editorial choice” adopted in the programme, and expressed shock at its timing and tone.

“It was a strange editorial choice so quick after the historic five in-a-row victory,” Costello noted, before later adding: “You’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.”

Do the Boys in Blue have an unfair advantage in the GAA, was the question raised in the programme after their five-in-a-row win over Kerry in September’s showpiece. 

The ‘RTÉ’s Prime Time’ section, in full, of Costello’s annual report, reads:

“Dublin football teams have ‘raised the passions’ of supporters, commentators and viewers for a long time. There is just something about that jersey that creates lively debate! The success of the team of the 1970s brought with it some derision. The more things change…

“During the lull years post-1995 until 2011 the footballers of the capital were often held up for ridicule. Pre-championship debate would compare them to the English soccer team and the fans likewise. Basically Dublin were ‘fair game’. Sometimes things don’t stay the same…

“We are, unfortunately, becoming familiar with the increasingly twisted manner of public discourse and I genuinely believe that a large part of the contorted debate about funding for Dublin falls into this category.

“Conflating different elements and ignoring other aspects of how Gaelic games in the county are promoted and developed through the club network has shaped the subtext for those who wish to discredit and diminish the achievements of the county senior football squad and management.

jim-gavin-celebrates-at-the-final-whistle-with-john-costello Costello celebrates with Jim Gavin after the 2019 win. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

However, though the issue of funding for games development in Dublin was discussed in detail on the Sunday Game during the summer, I was somewhat shocked when, with the dust not even settled on our historic All-Ireland football success, RTÉ’s flagship investigative programme Prime Time included the debate as an ‘issue’ worth covering.

“Without moderation, what happens on social media where attention and populist outrage are craved is largely beyond our control and unworthy in many instances of rational debate. However, one would – and should – expect different and higher standards to apply to our national broadcaster and to a programme of the calibre of Prime Time. Perhaps not. By any reasonable and objective assessment, it was a strange editorial choice so quick after the historic five in-a-row victory.

“Most of those approached by the programme to discuss the issue – many of whom were still celebrating the five-in-a-row success – were unhappy with Prime Time contriving to make a cause célebre of Dublin’s success.

“Let’s be clear when perhaps their editorial team were not so clear. Prime Time essentially used how the GAA funds a team of Games Promotion Officers to encourage, coach and support young children to play Gaelic games through their primary schools and GAA club nurseries, in the most densely populated region in the country to raise questions with regard to the achievements of our senior football team.

“As they say you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.”

RTÉ Prime Time have since responded to Costello’s comments, with editor Donogh Diamond stating:

“In the immediate aftermath of Dublin’s historic win in September RTÉ Prime Time debated a question that has been the subject of discussion all over the country for some years now – whether or not there was a danger that Dublin GAA was becoming too dominant.

“Dublin’s victory in September led to further comment on this issue and so it was the most appropriate time to have this fair and balanced discussion, which repeatedly emphasised the scale of the sporting achievement of the Dublin team.

“Since the broadcast nobody has pointed to any specific fact included in the item that was in any way inaccurate.”

john-costello-celebrates-with-his-son-cormac-costello With his son, Cormac. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Costello also criticised the Government for the lack of pitches and green spaces available to Dublin clubs, once again, adding that “the situation is worsening every year”.

“As I have regularly said in past reports, the difficulties in procuring facilities in the capital are enormous and, in truth, the situation is worsening every year,” he wrote.

There is literally no land left for potential development of GAA infrastructure and what little land there may be is simply too expensive for our clubs to procure. I worry about this situation and would dearly love to see it addressed seriously at Government level.

“We cannot continue to build houses and apartments and not set aside adequate amenity space for the people who live in those places. And adequate should not mean minimal. Greater value and consideration has to be given to green space.

“Land cannot be solely seen as space to build houses – nor just for industry either. Equal importance must be given to green space, playing areas and leisure facilities. And such areas – and attendant facilities – should not be viewed as social ‘luxuries’. Green space, sports facilities and public amenities are the most essential components of social infrastructure – they are not luxuries.

“I think the very least that can be done in this regard is that the Government and City Councils should ensure that any existing amenity space is kept as amenity space.”

- Originally published at 13.25, updated at 17.40 to include RTÉ Prime Time’s response

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Emma Duffy

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