Larne FC suspends John Herron as ‘pro-IRA’ top investigation is launched

Larne FC midfielder John Herron has been “suspended with immediate effect” after a picture of him apparently wearing a ‘pro-IRA’ shirt at the Wolfe Tone’s concert at the West Belfast Festival last night (Sunday) was shared on social media.

The former Celtic player, who signed for the Inver Park outfit in 2020, was pictured alongside Cliftonville player Ronan Hale at the event at the Falls Park, with Herron pictured wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the caption: “Tiocfaidh ár lá, sing up the Ra, ooh ah up the Ra.”

Confirming Herron has been suspended, a club spokesperson said: “For the period of his suspension, John will not represent the club in fixtures at any level. An investigation into this incident is now underway.

“We have shown that we are an inclusive football club for all, demonstrated not only in words but also by our extensive work in the local community. There is no room for behaviour which falls outside of this ethos and we fully expect members, players and anyone associated with the club to reflect these standards at all times.

John Herron in action for Larne FC. Picture: Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

“We will be making no further comment until the investigation has been completed.”

Following the emergence of the photograph on social media, elected representatives from across Northern Ireland have joined in condemnation.

East Antrim DUP MLA Gordon Lyons said: “The glorification of the IRA, or any other terrorist organisation, is utterly unacceptable. Sadly, this is something we have seen all too often lately and it must be condemned unequivocally.

“Many people have been in touch with me today following a picture that has been posted online showing a Larne FC player wearing an ‘Up the Ra’ t-shirt. This will be abhorrent to all right thinking people in the town and beyond.

John Herron pictured playing for Larne FC earlier this year. Picture: Andrew McCarroll/ Pacemaker Press

“Having spoken to senior officials at the club, I’m glad that they understand the sense of anger that many in the town are feeling.

“Let’s make no mistake, the brutal, bloody and sectarian campaign of the IRA and its members is not something that should ever be celebrated, honoured or made light of.

“I hope that those who have engaged in such behaviour this weekend will recognise how hurtful their actions have been to those who have suffered so much at the hands of the IRA.”

Party colleague, Coast Road representative Councillor Andrew Clarke added: “Larne Football Club does tremendous work throughout the area, bringing people of all backgrounds together. That doesn’t work if your players are promoting sectarianism and hatred.

“John Herron cannot represent our club again.”

East Antrim UUP MLA John Stewart said Herron “should never play for the club again” adding: “All Irish league clubs are cross community in Northern Ireland including our local teams Larne FC and Carrick Rangers FC.

“The teams are made up of people who come from different backgrounds and will have different political outlooks. What people do in their spare time and what their religious and political allegiances are is nobody else’s business.

“However, there is a line that can never be crossed and that is showing support for any terrorist organisation of any political background.

“This society is coming out of three decades where bombings and shootings caused untold misery and suffering to thousands of innocent people.

“To be seen to be sympathetic to an IRA terrorist campaign where thousands of people were killed is simply beyond the pale.

“Both Irish league players in that photo- including the one who posted it on his social media - need to search their consciences and have questions to answer. As do their employers.

“John Herron should never play for Larne FC again.”

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Branding the wearing of the top “sickening”, North Down Alliance MP Stephen Farry said: “There must be zero tolerance of the celebration of terrorism, whether that is republican or loyalist. The club and IFA need to investigate and take appropriate action.”