Council rejects proposal to withdraw funding from GAA following ‘disgraceful scenes’

A proposal to temporarily withdraw Council support for the GAA in Mid Ulster was voted down at a meeting of Mid Ulster District Council.

Friday, 25th September 2020, 1:52 pm
Scenes of the post-victory celebrations

The proposal was introduced by Dungannon councillor Clement Cuthbertson who raised the issue of social media footage showing men in Dungannon GAA tops flouting social distancing guidelines and singing pro-IRA songs and using sectarian language.

The footage appeared online following Dungannon Thomas Clarke’s GAC victory in the Tyrone County Championship final on Sunday, September 20.

Speaking at September’s meeting of Mid Ulster District Council, Cllr Cuthbertson said: “In normal times we would be here tonight congratulating a sporting achievement for Dungannon.

“However, any significance this victory had, has been lost to the disgraceful and reckless scenes we witnessed last weekend.

“The blatant disregard shown to social distancing and COVID-19 regulations, which are in place to protect us all, was shameful.

“I have been contacted by many in our health service who are in in utter despair after watching the footage of what had taken place.”

The DUP representative continued: “If that was not serious enough, there are quite a number of social media videos circulating, clearly showing clips of singing and chanting by groups of men, wearing Dungannon GAA shirts, some waving the trophy aloft and others in licensed premises.

“Unfortunately, the words to the songs are much too vulgar for me to repeat in public. They are misogynistic, derogatory, offensive, sectarian and pro-IRA.

“I will be expecting both Ulster GAA and Dungannon GAA to come out to condemn and distance themselves from this disgusting behaviour.

“I also expect every councillor in this room to outright condemn these actions.”

Cllr Cuthbertson then called on Council to suspend funding to the GAA pending the organisation’s condemnation of these actions and a police investigation.

“The PSNI are investigating these matters, until these investigations are over and depending on the outcome, and depending if the words of condemnation are forthcoming, this council must suspend all funding to the GAA in Mid-Ulster,” he said.

“We cannot have the name of this council associated, by supporting in a financial way, any form of misogynistic, derogatory and disgusting terms against women.

“I am making this proposal to suspend all grant assistance until such times as outlined.”

Ulster Unionist party leader, Councillor Walter Cuddy congratulated the Clarkes on their success and said he fully understood what it meant to the club’s fans but said their behaviour needed to be called out.

“With regards to the pitch invasion it is okay for subs and backroom staff to be doing that but it is wrong for fans to do it,” said the Dungannon councillor.

“We all have to call it out, where has everybody been for the last six months? Things are getting very serious again and I hope this has not caused further problems.

“Nevertheless, the pitch invasion is an internal GAA issue and I am waiting to see how they will deal with it.”

Cllr Cuddy then expressed his disappointment at the footage showing the chanting and songs being sung making it clear to him “that people from my background will never be welcome to the sport of Gaelic”.

“Growing up, the Dungannon Swifts may have been considered a loyalist team, now they are a proper Irish league team welcoming everyone no matter the background,” said Cllr Cuddy.

“I hope the Clarkes can build on their achievements and I challenge the Clarkes to continue their good work with the new nationals that are coming into Dungannon but you can’t have it both ways.”

Cookstown Councillor John McNamee congratulated the Clarkes and said they had provided “some great entertainment over the last few weeks”.

“Emotions were high but when you hear on RTE Pat Spillane saying the best club football in Ireland is now in Tyrone and knowing the local connections to the club it is perhaps easy to see how it would be such an emotional time,” said Cllr McNamee.

Councillor Cuthbertson’s proposal was seconded by DUP group leader, Councillor Paul McLean.

The Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Cathal Mallaghan, said he watched the Clarkes’ success with “great joy” and welcomed Councillor Cuddy’s remarks.

“I did see congratulations from the other clubs in the town on social media and it is good example of very healthy relationship between the different sporting organisations in Mid Ulster,” said the Chair.

“I stand by my remarks in terms of responsibility. Everyone is responsible and we are seeing these responsibilities being broken right across society.

“Whether it is a golf gathering in the south or Sammy Wilson travelling on the tube without wearing a mask, there is no point trying to spoil the broth we have to take responsibility for our own actions.

“The Ulster council was very quick to come out and comment and what they said was sensible. Whether or not we were ready for sport to come back, with all the emotion it brings is another question.

“However, to borrow a phrase from Councillor McLean, I think this proposal is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut and is tarnishing the whole of the GAA right across Mid Ulster.”

The proposal was put to a vote and was defeated with 14 in favour and 23 against.