GAA IRA banner a 'hate incident'

THE erection of a banner in Dungannon referring to the GAA as the "sporting wing of the IRA" is being treated as a hate incident by Police.

Featuring the image of a rifle, the GAA logo and the message "not welcome in this area", the banner was found fixed to a fence on the Gortmerron Link Road in the town on Saturday.

It is the latest in a series of incidents targeting the GAA in Northern Ireland in recent months.

Sinn Fein MP for the area, Michelle Gildernew, condemned the banner and those behind it.

“Over the course of recent months we have unfortunately witnessed an intensification of the campaign against the GAA from some sections of loyalism," she said.

“The erection of this threatening and sectarian banner in Dungannon is the latest of a series of reprehensible attacks on the sport.

“The GAA is inclusive and open, it welcomes all sections of society to participate in its games. Within Tyrone the GAA is the bedrock of many communities.

“In particular Thomas Clarke GAC and Eoghan Ruadh Hurling Club are deeply embedded in the local community of Dungannon.

“Efforts to intimidate the GAA in Dungannon, Tyrone and across the north will fail. I am calling on leaders within the Unionist and Loyalist community to make immediate efforts to end this futile campaign.

SDLP councillor Malachy Quinn said he has been contacted by both unionist and nationalist residents in the area who were "disgusted" by the banner. "Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic GAA clubs across the country have been out providing support to the most vulnerable in our community," he added.

"Club members haven’t asked about anyone’s background before they offered assistance - they just helped anyone they could.
“These signs are an attempt by a very small minority to intimidate people from a unionist background away from the GAA and to stop the integration of our communities. They will not succeed.

“The GAA is and always will be an organisation that embraces everyone regardless of background and those behind these signs will not prevent this no matter how hard they try.”

Regarding Saturday's incident in Dugannon, PSNI Chief Inspector Nigel Henry said: "Police located a sign erected on Gortmerron Link Road in Dungannon yesterday afternoon (Saturday, 22nd August).
"We are treating this as a hate incident, and enquiries are ongoing.
“Anyone with information is asked to call us on 101 and quote reference number 1302 22/08/20. You can also submit a report online using our non-emergency reporting form. Alternatively, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on their website.

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