The GAA Social Initiative arose as a result of former President Mary McAleese and her husband, Martin, noticing an absence of older men in attendance at official functions during their many visits to local communities over the years. She came to the conclusion that many men, because of the changing patterns of life, were falling through cracks in the system and either risking or already experiencing isolation and loneliness. For instance, there are approx 200,000 men over 65 in the country, of which as many as one third are living alone. The former President referred to those "who have lost the threads of regular and meaningful social contact and who would welcome the chance to revive their social lives again in ways they would enjoy". Arising from her concern, the former President established a Forum in 2007 consisting of selected older men - leading academics, health and social care professionals, service providers and local and national representatives - to explore the problem. For more information on findings from the Forum, click here.
The GAA Social Initiative
Subsequently, the former President invited the GAA to implement some of these ideas arising from the Forum resulting in the ‘GAA Social Initiative', launched in 2009. The Initiative began with four county-based projects in Mayo, Fermanagh, Kerry and Wexford. These projects co-ordinated, respectively, by Dr Mick Loftus, Tom Boyle, John Pierse and Tony Dempsey provided vital experience and information to develop the concept and, arising from the lessons learned in that first phase, the final form of the Initiative has been agreed.
It is now being re-launched as a club-based, island-wide project, utilising the GAA club network as a vehicle to achieve the greatest reach into all our communities. The former President's commitment is clearly illustrated by her willingness to serve as Patron to the Initiative. In addition, Dr Martin McAleese will serve as a Director of the Trust established to implement the Initiative.