GAA scores own goal on cashless turnstiles – Cllr

Cavan County GAA Board is being accused of scoring an own goal by no longer accepting cash at match turnstiles.

Conscious of the impact of the withdrawal of cash services on rural and older populations, Aontú’s Sarah O’Reilly tackled the issue at the October meeting of Cavan County Council when she delivered the most ignominious of digs by highlighting that near rivals Monaghan were still offering a cash option on match days.

“We’re fast becoming no country for older men, for who many, cash is still king. All we’re asking is to give people the choice,” she said, her comments coming ahead of the county final clash between Gowna and Killygarry at Kingspan Breffni last Sunday.

Cllr O’Reilly lamented how there was “no doubt” that Ireland is spiralling towards a cashless society in future. She even shouldered some of the blame herself. “This is something I’m guilty of expediting myself. Not only have I stopped using cash, but I also don’t even carry a physical debit card anymore. I’m a serial phone tapper.”

But she said that it would be those on low incomes, the homeless, minorities, as well as the elderly, who would invariably suffer as a result of the change.

“I’ve had more than a few people contact me with regard to one organisation in particular. That is Cavan County Board. The difficulties I’ll highlight in the examples given just happen to be GAA related. However, the issues are similar for all organisations who now refuse to take cash,” remarked Cllr O’Reilly.

She outlined how for “older rural men in particular”, a weekend of football would begin with turning up at a turnstile with a “tenner in your hand” and entering the game. “Now, for these people, it has become a process of high anxiety, the handing over of personal information, and a total dependence on others.”

Those without access to smartphones or a contactless bank card are immediately put at a disadvantage.

“Suddenly, normally independent people become very dependent on neighbours, friends or family members,” said Cllr O’Reilly, who relayed how she herself had witnessed older people handing over bank details to others for them to purchase match tickets.

She said too that the ticketing app is “giving bits of bother”.

“I myself had experience of the app when I tried to buy a last-minute ticket for a friend to the Under 12 finals in Breffni Park. The app kept throwing me out. I offered cash at the gate but was told ‘we’re not allowed to take that’. I thought, the absolute cheek! This person has come all the way from Australia, hoping to watch his nephew play in a final and the GAA were refusing to take cash. What an absolute disgrace!”

She described the processing of buying and accessing tickets online as “cumbersome”, involving the downloading of two apps.

Poor broadband in some rural areas, Cllr O’Reilly said, when presenting tickets for scanning, was also posing “a massive problem” in places like Mullagh. “I witnessed one woman with four children standing outside the gates of the GAA par. The game was started, and she was trying to get tickets or trying to open the app and nothing was happening.”

Such “glitches” were commonplace for customers, but the “GAA are okay, safe in the knowledge that they have your money. You may not be able to get in. You may be standing in the pouring rain with four kids trying to open an app that won’t open. But that does not seem important to Cavan County Board.”

Proposing to write to the county board demanding that they reinstate a cash option “similar to Monaghan County Board”, Cllr O’Reilly questioned: “To my knowledge, cash is legal tender and I wasn’t aware it could be refused, or can it?”

Her motion was immediately supported by others within the chamber.

Independent Brendan Fay, who is also a publican, outlined the difficulties facing businesses in keeping up with a cashless society, and the damage incurred when systems drop.

In delivery reminicent to the ‘choose life’ speech from Irvine Welsh's bestselling novel Trainspotting, Cllr Fay said what a cashless society means is: “Your child can’t go and help the local farmer to earn a bit of cash. No more cash slipped into the hands of a child from their grandparent when going on holidays. No more money in birthday cards. No more piggy banks for your child to collect pocket money and to learn about the value of earning. No more selling bits and pieces from your home that you no longer want or need for a bit of cash in return. No more cash gifts from relatives or loved ones.”

He went on to list off what a cashless society “does guarantee”, explaining that “Banks have full control of every single cent you own. Every transaction you make is recorded. All your movements and actions are traceable. Access to your money can be blocked at the click of a button when/if banks need ‘clarification’ from you, which could take weeks, a hundred questions answered and five hundred passwords. If your transactions are deemed in any way questionable, by those who create the questions, your money will be frozen, ‘for your own good’.”

He said that a system crash in his own pub the previous weekend saw a party of punters leave for another venue. At the time the meeting took place, Cllr Fay was still waiting for a technican to call back about when the problem might get fixed.

“Forget about cash being dirty. Cash has been around for a very, very long time and it gives you control over how you trade with the world. It gives you independence.”

Asking customers to choose to pay in cash, Cllr Fay urged shop and business owners to remove “ridiculous” signs asking people to pay by card only.

“Cash is a legal tender. It is our right to pay with cash. Banks are making it increasingly difficult to lodge cash and get your hard earned money. Please pay with cash and please say no to a cashless society while you still have a choice,” he concluded, asking that a copy of the motion arising be sent to the last two large remaining banking providers in Ireland - AIB and Bank of Ireland.

Fine Gael’s Trevor Smith and Carmel Brady also supported the motion.

TP O’Reilly (FG) said everyone was “guilty” of going cashless, and Fianna Fáil’s Philip Brady slammed how the new ticketing system meant that the days of a €1 childs ticket were over.

Fianna Fáil councillors Clifford Kelly and Patrica Walsh agreed, and Sinn Féin’s Paddy McDonald told how he was near a turnstile when a group tried to gain entry without prepaid tickets. His advice to them was to wait until the official had left their post.

“They should do one gate that’s not tap,” he suggested with regards the county board.