Ringland offers to meet GAA club that shunned Peadar Heffron

Declan Kearney, pictured in a Creggan Kickhams tracksuit, said Trevor Ringland was attempting to foment division within the GAA
Declan Kearney, pictured in a Creggan Kickhams tracksuit, said Trevor Ringland was attempting to foment division within the GAA

Reconciliation campaigner Trevor Ringland has offered to take a cross-community delegation of sports people for a private meeting with the GAA club which is alleged to have shunned Peadar Heffron for joining the PSNI.

Former PSNI officer Mr Heffron was left in a wheelchair by a dissident car bomb attack in 2010.

This week he broke his silence to say his Randalstown GAA club, Creggan Kickhams, has yet to offer him any sympathy or support.

The News Letter reported this week that Sinn Fein chairperson Declan Kearney was a cousin of Mr Heffron and a member of the club, but that we could see no record of him commenting on the attack in 2010. When asked on Tuesday he offered no comment.

However, on the same day Mr Kearney released a statement describing sectarianism as “the elephant in the room”, condemning the UVF intimidation of Catholic families in south Belfast.

Following DUP accusations of hypocrisy he then revealed he had offered private sympathy to Mr Heffron in 2010, adding: “No one should be marginalised because they choose a career in the PSNI.”

But now Mr Ringland has intervened. “I would be prepared to take a small cross-community group of sports people to meet with the club privately to talk and see if we could play a constructive role,” he said.

It was “a very powerful moment” when the GAA handed over the coffin of murdered police officer Ronan Kerr to the PSNI in 2011, he said.

“We need to face up to the deep-seated sectarianism and racism in anti-Irish and anti-British attitudes which manifested in the past in the shooting of police officers and in the hatred stirred up by Rev Ian Paisley.”

The situation described by Mr Heffron and his club was “appalling” he added.

“As a political leader he [Declan Kearney] should be going to the club and saying that ‘you should be standing by him and that you would have to have a hard look at your attitudes’.”

But Mr Kearney hit back. “Trevor Ringland along with some others in political unionism has chosen to cynically exploit the unjustifiable and brutal attack against a member of my wider family in 2010, in order to create a new controversy,” he said.

“My position on all of these issues has been made clear. His remarks are a disgraceful attempt to discredit me and to foment divisions within the GAA family.

“Trevor Ringland’s intervention is nothing short of despicable.”

The GAA club offered no comment.