Loftus returns to Croker after exile

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Former GAA president Dr Mick Loftus will attend his first All-Ireland hurling final in 15 years on Sunday after lifting a self-imposed ban over the sponsorship of the competition by Guinness.

Dr Loftus has not attended the hurling showpiece in the past decade and a half in protest over the GAA ’s decision to accept sponsorship from an alcohol firm. Dr Loftus said he would continue to be a strong opponent of sport being sponsored by drink companies but that he was going to attend the final between Galway and Kilkenny as an alcohol firm was no longer the main sponsor.

“Some other sponsors have now got involved in the sponsorship and the main offenders may have to bow to increasing pressure from public concern,” said the Co Mayo doctor, GAA President from 1985-87.

And the 83-year old said that his advancing years was also a decision to lift the ban as he wanted to enjoy the unique atmosphere of an All-Ireland hurling final in the time he has left.

“I began my boycott 15 years ago in protest at the GAA ’s acceptance of sponsorship revenues from drinks companies . I had a privileged position in the GAA and I was able to make that protest to show my disapproval .

“My decision to end myboycott was not taken lightly, in the 15 years since I began my protest the issue ofalcohol abuse in Ireland has become steadily moreserious to the point it now represents the most serious social problem in the country, affectinghundreds of thousands of peopledirectly and indirectly,” said Dr Loftus, who served as coroner in Mayo for 30 years.

He said he feels his protest has been worthwhile and he will continueto oppose alcohol sponsorship.

“The All-Ireland final is a very special occasion. Perhaps selfishly, I feel the urge to join my colleagues, past presidents and others, whose personal friendship and loyal camaraderie, I have always enjoyed.

“But I shall continue to vigorously oppose such sponsorship and the whole sad ethos with which this very month has resulted in tragic, avoidable deaths and associated heartbreak.