Derry GAA refuse to say if they were aware of allegations against Rory Gallagher

When contacted yesterday, the Derry County Board declined to comment on when they became aware of the allegations

Rory Gallagher Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Rory and Nicola Gallagher

Ciaran O'Neill

Derry GAA chiefs have refused to say if they were aware of domestic abuse allegations against Rory Gallagher when he was appointed manager of the county’s football team.

Gallagher, who took on the job in September 2019, announced on Friday evening he was “stepping back” from the Derry manager’s role following claims of domestic abuse by his estranged wife earlier this week.

Gallagher had been due to lead his side in today’s Ulster football final against Armagh before the claims emerged on social media.

When contacted yesterday, the Derry County Board declined to comment on when they became aware of the allegations against the father of three.

The county board also refused to clarify whether Gallagher’s decision in “stepping back” as Derry manager means he has resigned or whether he may return to the role at a later date.

In his statement on Friday, Gallagher said he had informed the Derry board he was “stepping back” as Derry senior football manager with “immediate effect”.

“This decision is borne out of a desire to protect my children from the ongoing turmoil. They will always be my priority,” he said.

Sources close to the Derry board have said there has been intense activity behind the scenes in recent days following the claims from Gallagher’s wife, Nicola.

There had been growing pressure for Gallagher to resign, with SDLP MLA Cara Hunter calling for him to quit on Friday, shortly before he issued his latest statement.

It is understood Sinn Féin representatives had also been in contact with the Derry County Board in relation to Gallagher’s position.

There had been plans for a protest in support of domestic abuse victims at today’s final.

However, it is unclear whether any protests will now take place given that Gallagher will not be involved in the match.

However, one prominent GAA source has criticised how the Derry board’s chairperson, John Keenan, and his “inner circle” handled the situation in recent days.

Rory and Nicola Gallagher

Accusing them of “burying their heads in the sand”, the source said resignations were needed to restore “dignity to the board and Derry GAA”.

However, when contacted yesterday in relation to this criticism, a spokesperson for the board said: “Derry GAA Executive Committee rejects these baseless assertions in relation to our chair, John Keenan. Decisions were taken in consultation with board members.”

Earlier in the week, the board had issued a statement in which it condemned all forms of domestic violence.

“We encourage anyone who had experienced domestic violence to report it to the relevant authorities immediately,” it said.

A statement from Ulster GAA said: “While we cannot comment or make judgment on any specific allegation or allegations, Ulster GAA does not condone any form of domestic violence.

“We encourage and support anyone who has been a victim of such abuse not to suffer in silence but to avail of the statutory and voluntary support services that are available in the community.”

Gallagher (44) played for both his native Fermanagh and Cavan during his GAA career.

He later managed the Donegal and Fermanagh teams, and was appointed Derry boss in 2019, leading them to Ulster Championship glory and the All-Ireland semi-finals last year.

Today’s Ulster final is set to be played in front of a sell-out 30,000 crowd.

Gallagher was arrested by the PSNI after a complaint in relation to alleged domestic abuse was made in October 2021.

A file was forwarded to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) which directed no prosecution due to “insufficient evidence”.

It is understood police files were sent to the PPS in January 2022 and June 2022. Decisions not to prosecute were issued in January 2022 and September 2022.

On Friday, Mrs Gallagher wrote another post on Facebook in which she thanked people for their support.

“I am overwhelmed by all the love and support, I feel so humbled and grateful for the strength that has been sent to me.”

Following his estranged wife’s post, Gallagher, who has been manager of the Derry team since 2019, issued a statement about the allegations on Thursday.

He said their marriage had broken down “over four years ago”.

“Those closest to our family are well aware of the reasons for the breakdown of our marriage and the continued issues we have faced since that time.”

He added that his focus over the past four years “has been to protect our children from the ongoing turmoil in our family”.

Gallagher said the “allegations against me have been investigated and dealt with by the relevant authorities”.

“I have left this matter in the hands of my legal team and ask that the privacy of our family is respected at this time.”

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