Policing was changed to placate republicans, yet still they hesitate

Morning View
Morning View

The ex police officer and GAA player Peadar Heffron believes former team-mates in his club passed his details to dissident republicans.

The club, Kickhams Creggan, has said that is “dangerous insinuation” and “absolutely false”.

In 2010 Mr Heffron lost a leg in an under-car bomb.

The whole episode has raised the possibility that the deeply republican tradition within the GAA has not changed as much as it once seemed to the rest of the world. After the PSNI replaced the RUC in 2001, the GAA dropped its ban on members of the British security forces playing Gaelic games.

The PSNI itself had a team, and it seemed that a new chapter in cross community relations had been opened.

For days after Mr Heffron spoke out last Sunday, his home town club, Kickhams Creggan refused to comment on the controversy. Then, this weekend they spoke up to say they condemned the murder bid on Mr Heffron “unequivocally”.

They encouraged anyone with information to go to the police, but did not say if they would back a player who joined the PSNI. They said they were “deeply saddened” their reputation had “been made the subject of undeserved controversy”.

But it was the club that took almost a week to respond to the allegations. If the controversy is “undeserved” then they had several days to put the record straight and didn’t.

Meanwhile, the PSNI chief constable George Hamilton says the GAA is not encouraging nationalists to join the police. He also said Sinn Fein is hesitating.

Even if this does not change, there must be no return to 50/50 recruitment, in which better qualified Protestant candidates sometimes lost out to non Protestant ones.

The name of the police was changed, positive discrimination was used in recruitment, and almost suffocating supervision of the PSNI was put in place – all to placate republicans.

If they still fail to back publicly brave PSNI recruits from a nationalist background, society must move on, including tougher sentences for those who try to attack police.