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Gaelic Athletic Association - Oral History Project

Pat Fanning, 1918–2010

gaa oral history project

Pat Fanning
Pat Fanning, former President of the GAA
Image Courtesy of The Munster Express

In November 2008, Pat Fanning — one of the most important figures in the GAA in the twentieth century — recorded a long and revealing interview with the GAA Oral History Project. The interview offers a unique insight into the life and times of a man much of whose life was dedicated to service of the GAA.

This service began in the 1920s. Pat was adamant throughout his life that the GAA was much more than a mere sporting organisation. He saw in the GAA a means to serve the Irish nation; he saw it also as part of a broader cultural initiative to promote a sense of Irishness.

What makes Pat Fanning’s insight into this era so vital were the various roles he held. Even while he was hurling with Mount Sion and with Waterford, he was secretary of his club and trained the Waterford minor hurlers to win the 1948 Minor All-Ireland championship, while being a substitute on the senior team that also claimed All-Ireland honours later in the afternoon. He recalls the enormous pride he took from his involvement as a selector on the Waterford team that won the All-Ireland in 1959.

Pat notes how he refused every promotion in his career for fear that it would hinder his ability to work voluntarily for the GAA. This work continued to the very highest offices of the GAA. It included chairmanship of the Mount Sion Club, of the Waterford County Board and of the Munster Council, before culminating in Presidency of the GAA.

That Presidency is most noted for the removal of the ban on foreign games in 1971. In this interview, Pat recalls the tensions which surrounded the entire matter and how, despite personally supporting the ban, he managed the removal of the rule.

His work was rooted in the notion of the GAA as an organisation at the very heart of the community. It was this ideal which sustained his interest in the Association until his death in 2010 at the age of 91.

**As the interview is quite a large file, it has been broken into sections to aid slower internet connections. We have not made any edits to the interview, except those requested by the interviewee. The clips appear here in the sequence they occurred in the interview. To listen, please click on a link below.**

Pat's memories of childhood and his school days

Developing Grounds

The GAA as a movement

The GAA ideal; young people of the GAA; developing Croke Park

The Waterford hurling tradition and the 1955–63 team

Pat's inter-county career

Pat's decision to get involved in GAA administration

Pat's presidency of the GAA and the removal of Rule 27

Effectiveness of Rule 27 and the removal of Rule 21

The GAA and the Troubles; The GAA Club Development Scheme

Organisational development in the GAA in Pat's experience

Place of the Irish language and Irish culture in the GAA

Reflections on the presidency of the GAA

Opening Croke Park; the GAA's future; Northern Ireland; media

Closing reflections

© GAA Oral History Project

Follow this link to read the obituary of Pat Fanning, published in The Munster Express on 19th March 2010.