Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Burns outlines aspirations for GAA Presidential bid

By Diarmúid Pepper

Armagh GAA has proposed Jarlath Burns to be the next president of the GAA.

Burns is the current Silverbridge secretary and is also the principal of St Paul’s High School. 

It’s a move that has been rumoured in the past, but was made official at a recent County Board meeting. 

Burns spoke to The Examiner about the nomination process and his pride in becoming a nominee.

“The nomination process is quite simple. Armagh knew that I was interested in running this time. They approached me and asked me if I was interested and I said I was.

“So at the last County Board meeting, they proposed me officially and asked that it be ratified by the Armagh County Board. The board includes one representative from each club, and they were happy to do so.”

When asked how it felt to have been officially nominated, Burns said that it would not have been possible but for the influence of his local club.  

“It is a great honour to be nominated to be president but it would be an even greater honour to be elected as president,” said the former Armagh county captain. 

“I would like to thank the Armagh County Board for doing so, but also thank all the other people who have had a big influence on me throughout my life; particularly my club, Silverbridge, which is where every value that I have in the GAA and everything that I think about the GAA emanates from.”

Since hanging up his playing boots, Burns has had a number of high-profile roles within the upper echelons of the GAA hierarchy. 

He’s been on the Standing Committee on the Playing Rules, the 125th Anniversary Committee, has served on the Central Council, and has also been a part of the GAA Management Committee.

However, it is his time with Silverbridge that Burns thinks will stand to him most as he begins his campaign to become the next GAA president.

“All of those roles that I have played over the last 15 to 20 years will definitely give me a lot of experience. I have been involved at a very high level in Croke Park since I have stopped playing football and even the fact that I have played football at a high level will definitely stand to me as well. 

“I have a unique insight into the game, but I would imagine that being secretary and Chairperson of my club will be a bigger help for me because the GAA is a grassroots organisation and it is something that we need to return to. We need to have an understanding of how the grassroots work. Being involved so much with my club will definitely be of assistance.”

The role of GAA president can be a relentless one. It is arguably one of the highest positions in civil society in Ireland; the GAA has over one million members and is present in every parish in Ireland.

However, it is a role that Burns believes he is primed for at this stage of his life.

“I am in my early 50s. I still have a lot of energy. I want to be a dynamic leader and I want to try and be the best that I can and be very energetic. 

“Being president involves a lot of travel and I want to make sure that I have the right energy to do it and I certainly do at this moment.

“I don’t want it to be a sort of retirement thing for me. Running the GAA and being the president of the GAA is a very responsible job and I want to ensure that I can give it my absolute best.”

A week prior to being nominated for the top job in the GAA, Burns was paying homage to his younger namesake. 

At the recent Irish News Awards ceremony, Jarlath Burns senior was called upon to present Jarly Og with an Irish News All-Star. 

“It was an honour to present Jarly Og with an Irish News All-Star,” Burns told The Examiner. 

He continued: “Jarly Og is very young and he knows himself that he has a long career ahead of him with lots to prove. I don’t want to put him under any other pressure than what he would be under naturally. 

“He just wants to train and work hard and be as good a county player and a Silverbridge player as he can. I suppose it is my job and the job of his mother and his family to try and support him in the best way that we can. 

“I think the reason why they let me present it to him was because it was the first father and son Irish News All-Star duo, and I know that was a big honour for all of us.”

When asked how proud he would be to see his son lift the Anglo-Celt Cup, Burns demurs and says that it is irrelevant who lifts it so long as Armagh can get their hands on the trophy once more. 

“Whoever lifts the trophy is irrelevant really. You just want to see an Armagh man lifting the trophy and I think that we have a team at the moment that could do it over the next few years. 

“It is 20 years since I lifted it, a long time ago, and though it is a great memory, you always have to look towards the future. That is part of the past but I think that the future looks very bright for Armagh and I look forward to supporting Armagh long into the future.”