Cliftonville: We’d ban any poppy desecration fans without hesitation

The poppy wreaths were replaced within hours of Saturday's attack
The poppy wreaths were replaced within hours of Saturday's attack

A north Belfast football club has said it would have “no hesitation” in banning any fans who are found to be responsible for an act of descration at the site of a Troubles bloodbath.

It relates to the wrecking of a tribute display comprised of crosses, poppies, and written tributes at Narrow Water, on the northern outskirts of Warrenpoint, south Co Down, on Saturday.

The tributes commemorate the victims of an IRA ambush of soldiers in 1979 at the site, when the IRA killed 18 soldiers.

The finger of blame for the attack on the memorial site has been laid with fans of north Belfast Irish Premiership team Cliftonville FC, widely seen as having a republican support base.

The team was playing against Warrenpoint FC on Saturday afternoon, in a match beginning at 3pm.

The vandalism is understood to have happened between 5pm and 5.15pm.

An independent councillor, Jarlath Tinnelly, has told of witnessing the act of vandalism as he drove past, and said it happened “as a crowd of men gathered at the front of a parked bus” at the site.

Police said they stopped and “retained” a bus in the Lisburn area after the incident.

As of 8pm Monday night, a PSNI spokesman said that police still had possession of the vehicle.

Cliftonville FC’s chairman Gerard Lawlor had already released a statement at the weekend, saying: “This pathetic act isn’t in my name nor that of Cliftonville Football Club.”

Now, the club has released a further statement.

It said: “Cliftonville Football Club have had several inquiries since our statement on Saturday in regards to events at Narrow Water.

“In particular, they have asked if we intend to issue bans to those involved.

“The Club wish to state, that should confirmation be received of the identity of those convicted, then we would have no hesitation in banning them from our stadium.

“Cliftonville have previously banned individuals from Solitude on several occasions.

“While this is effective in preventing entry to games at our ground, we would call on all Irish League Clubs, the Northern Ireland Football League and the Irish Football Association to help and support us in preventing all banned persons from entering all football grounds.”

According to the Conflict Archive on the Internet (or CAIN, run by the Province’s two universities), the victims ranged in age from 40 to 18.

It describes the attack as follows: “The first bomb was left in parked lorry and detonated when British Army (BA) lorry passed.

“The second bomb was left in a nearby Gate Lodge and detonated when British Army (BA) reinforcements arrived at the scene of the first explosion.”

The same day as the bombing, the IRA bombed the boat of 79-year-old Lord Mountbatten off the coast of Sligo, murdering him, Lady Brabourne (82), and two boys aged 14 and 15.