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.
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.
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