GAA-IRA Cup: Follow IFA’s lead on sectarianism reform, says Trevor Ringland

The GAA has been challenged to follow the example of Northern Ireland football in creating an inclusive culture, after the resurrection of a competition in Tyrone named after two IRA men.

Tuesday, 30th July 2019, 7:00 am
Trevor Ringland said Northern Ireland football fans had been involved in the campaign to create a more inclusive environment at games

Former Ulster and Ireland rugby star Trevor Ringland made the call after a Coalisland GAA cup named after two IRA men was relaunched after a ten year hiatus.

The McGirr Campbell Cup was relaunched at Coalisland Fianna GAA club, with the final due to be played on 21 July. However the final was postponed due to bereavement.

Brian Campbell and Colm McGirr were shot by the SAS as they took weapons from an a cache near the town in 1983.

Trevor Ringland urged the GAA to follow the example of the IFA on dealing with sectarianism

The News Letter contacted the GAA about the cup, after concerns were raised by an IRA victim. Ulster GAA gave only a brief statement.

“We are not aware of any application to host a tournament in memory of Colm McGirr and Brian Campbell,” it said ahead of the competition.

But Mr Ringland urged the GAA to move forward with reforms. He resigned from the UUP in 2010 as the then party leader declined to attend a GAA match.

“After that I was invited to address the GAA annual conference,” he said. “I recommended that the GAA emulated work done by the NI football team through ‘Football for All’ which looked at sectarianism in football, its causes and the environment it was creating at NI football games. NI football asked itself ‘how do we change?’

“What was really positive was that a sea of NI fans who came up with new songs, cross community programmes and worked hard at creating an inclusive an environment.

“Danny Murphy, CEO of Down GAA, always maintained: ‘I want all the people of Down to support them [the Down GAA team].’

“The murders of Ian Ogle and Lyra McKee remind us of fatalities on all sides, and looking to the future we have to be more challenging to the ideologies behind this.”

A spokesman for Ulster GAA said: “We echo the sentiments expressed by Trevor in looking to the future with a shared society. Only two weeks ago, Ulster GAA brought two cross community Gaelic football teams to compete in the All Britain Competition in London. This trip included visits to Clarence House, residence of The Prince of Wales, and to the Embassy of Ireland.”

An Armalite found at the scene of the McGirr-Campbell shooting was used to kill Cookstown father-of-nine-and RUC reservist John Scott. Mr Scott’s son, David, recently called for the cancellation of the cup named after them.

“My father was murdered with the very weapon these men were found in possession of,” he said. His father was not sectarian and not involved in terrorism, he added.