GAA breaks silence after seven days to explain how dissident republican parade linked to Lyra McKee was able to use club grounds

The GAA says that a well publicised dissident republican parade linked to murdered journalist Lyra KcKee was able to use the grounds of a GAA club because there were no gates on the premises.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 4:00 am
Updated Thursday, 21st October 2021, 3:06 pm

Last month political party Saoradh issued flyers promoting a republican parade staged from Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC on Saturday 2 October. Saoradh is a republican party often linked to the New IRA, which is allegedly responsible for killing journalist Lyra McKee in 2019.

In response to the flyers, Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC issued a public statement giving assurances that “no event” other than official GAA activity “will be taking place at club premises on that date”.

However Saoradh later published photos which appeared to show coaches, cars and participants in paramilitary style uniforms forming up in the club’s car park.

Lyra McKee died after being shot in Creggan in 2019.

The News Letter invited the GAA at all levels for comment for a week with no response.

DUP MLA Keith Buchanan said yesterday he had written to the GAA Ulster Council calling on it to make a statement.

Finally, yesterday afternoon Ulster GAA issued its first response. It said: “Ulster GAA wish to reiterate the statement by Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC, dated 9th September, that the club did not grant permission for the use of their premises for any event titled ‘Saoradh National Hunger Strike Commemoration’ on Saturday 2nd October. The club car park is ungated and there was engagement with local authorities and the PSNI on the matter in advance of that date, as part of their planning for management of the above event on the day.

“Like all GAA clubs, Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC is a community-based organisation that exists to promote Gaelic games and culture in line with the aims and objectives of the GAA.”

However Mr Buchanan replied that “the excuse offered by Ulster GAA is beyond threadbare”. He added: “This was a well-publicised event. Bellaghy GAC was listed by the Parades Commission as the starting location yet no-one associated with the club was interested enough to bother either erecting a set of gates to the carpark or taking other measures to secure their own property.”

He said it did not appear that the club’s engagement with local authorities and the PSNI had included a request that access to its ground be prevented, and asked the club what action it intends to take against the organisers.

The GAA was invited to respond.

The PSNI said it was present to ensure a parade passed off “safely and lawfully”. It added: “Trespass on private land is a civil matter.”

The Department for Communities has also been asked to comment twice this week, however no comment has yet been offered.

MORE NEWS:

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Ben Lowry

Editor