TMC “went to the polls” last night in what may well turn out to be a referendum on the furure development of the club. Around 25 members voted for a measure that would have paved the way for greater participation by young people in the club. The measure was vehemently rejected by a large majority of members present. However if one counts the active members present at the meeting, the vote was much closer to an even split.
The vote was preceded by an information session, during which Ruth Whelan, Membership Development Officer with Mountaineering Ireland, did a good job of showing that removing the ban on membership for people under the age of 18 would have little or no affect on routine club activity. The motion was then put to a very well attended special general meeting and was rejected by a well organised and determined opposition.
TMC has said NO, emphatically, to a small measure of equality that sought to address the badly skewed age profile of the club, a factor that is acknowledged to be a problem by all sides.
From a club development point of view, it was an extraordinary event. The information provided by Ruth fell on deaf ears, mostly. That was hardly surprising under the circumstances but the hostility towards a small measure of equality was quite shocking, as was the underlying attitude to young people and their involvement in our sport. As one member put it, this can easily be achieved but the members simply don’t want it.
There was a lot of talk about selfishness afterwards; a recurring theme of the night was that the presence of young mountaineers would impact negatively on an adult day out in the hills. It’s never as simple as that. I’ve been in the club for almost 20 years and I would always have regarded it as a fairly relaxed, egalitarian organisation that valued access to and participation in mountaineering, underpinned by skills development and progression in the sport.
That does not appear to be the case any more. The vote last night was about making a choice between the long term development of the club and, what one memeber called ‘keeping things simple.’ Keeping things simple has meant, in my experience, a resistance to club supported training, a laissez faire attitude to gender equality, and the dismantling of simple procedures that ensured that the club walks were representative of the membership as a whole and responsive to member choice. This last point is causing a lot of disquiet among members.
The impact is all too apparent to anyone who has participated in Level 2 walks recently. Bog trots in the Slieve Mish are the new standard, and, across the board, there seems to be a policy of avoiding winter walks in the Reeks, despite this being rejected by a previous committee. The leadership of walks has also been “simpliified.” For years it was expected that leaders would have Mountains Skills 1 or 2 and first aid training. The ability to navigate seems to have become entirely optional and navigation has been a serious issue on at least three Level 2 walks since November. The most recent walk was a shambles. It has got to the point where one has to question whether TMC can even meet it’s duty of care to its members at this level.
Those are the negatives.
The positives are equally striking.
Training is now subsidised for any member who wants to progress within the club, an essential element in ensuring equality across all levels within the club. The current committee has achieved full gender balance, one of a small number of clubs in Ireland to do so. Around 25 members voted, in very difficult circumstances, in favour of a small measure of equality in our club. That is 25 reasons to be optimistic about the future of the club and those of us who sponsored the motion thank those members for their support.
In the last blog I put up two images that represented very different ideas of what TMC might stand for: four generations of mountaineers working on the development of the Dingle Way or a protestor in a nappy apparently opposing a vote that would allow participation by young people in the club.
The stark differences in our vision of the club were cruelly revealed by the vote last night but we have to recognise the fact that a sizeable proportion of the members present at the meeting opted for an inclusive and progressive club. This is a club issue and it cannot be dismissed as an individual grievance. This is, as Ronnie Reagan said, a vision thing.
A postscript: publish and be damned!
The genie is out of the bottle and keeping things simple is no longer an option. We develop or we die. Publishing this post was not easy. I’m fairly sure that it is going to piss a lot of people off, and some people are going to try and have it taken down. So be it. The blog itself was started in response to the secrecry surrounding the publication of the club booklet, possibly another example of “simplifying things.” Members need a forum for things that need to be said, and this is one such forum.
The situation last night was so extraordinary that some response is necessary and the consequences of publishing can’t be any worse than the fallout from the meeting itself. Indeed, the consequences of staying quiet and letting things slide could be far worse. The debate needs to happen, not here, but among the members.
This is the last posting on this subject.