Tributes have been pouring in for former president of the Gaelic Athletic Association Jack Boothman, who died on Tuesday.
Boothman, the first Protestant president of the GAA, headed up the Association between 1994 and 1997 and is credited with guiding the establishment into a new era.
Most of the planning done for the redevelopment of Croke Park – now the third biggest sports stadium in Europe behind Camp Nou and Wembley – was carried out under Boothman’s watch.
The Wicklow native, a stalwart of Blessington GAA, also put the wheels in motion for the abolition of Rule 21, which banned members of British security forces from the Association.
That eventually came to fruition in 2001, while Boothman is also credited with strengthening GAA at grassroots level, with his Oganach report about juvenile games during his time with the Leinster Council leading to development initiatives such as the Go Games.
Blessington GAA confirmed the sad news of his passing on Tuesday, May 10, via the following statement.
We sadly learned this morning of the passing of our lifetime member, former player, Club official in several capacities and present Club Trustee, Jack Boothman. We were immensely proud of his achievements nationally and I know he took huge pride in his own Club, none more evident than when we hosted last year’s Feile. As a mark of respect we are closing the pitches and the facilities for the rest of the week.
Current GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail expressed his sympathies upon hearing the news of Boothman’s passing.
He said: “Jack Boothman was a man I considered to be a friend and he served the GAA with distinction. I had the privilege of knowing him since the 1980s and have very fond memories of attending an Irish language course with him and Joe McDonagh in the Meath Gaeltacht of Rath Chairn. He was great company.
A former Chairman of the West Wicklow Board, Vice Chairman of the County Board, Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Leinster Council, Boothman will also be fondly remembered by Kerryman Sean Kelly, himself a former president of the GAA.
“He worked very closely to make our games and our association broader, and to end any discrimination that existed, which was, in one sense, what people saw rule 21 doing,” he said.
“His quiet work in the background, where he did most of the work, brought the Ulster Council with him and they brought their members with them.
“Then attitudes changed, and those who were maybe reluctant in the beginning had such respect for Jack and that created a more positive attitude and a broader view within the association.”
Boothman travelled all over Ireland to GAA fields and events, where he crossed paths with Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness many times.
“I was very privileged to meet Jack at many GAA events,” said McGuinness. “Jack was a gentleman and I always found him to be very warm and courteous.
“He was a proud GAA man and his family and club Blessington GAA in Wicklow will be rightly proud of his many achievements at local and national level.”