GAA club pressed to give explanation about photos of dissident event

A GAA club in Bellaghy whose grounds were reportedly used by dissident republican group linked to the murder of Lyra McKee has been asked to give an explanation for what took place on their property.

By Philip Bradfield
Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 4:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 9:24 am

The political party Saoradh issued flyers some weeks ago to promote the ‘Saoradh National Hunger Striker Commemoration’ which it said would take place at “Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC” at 2pm on Saturday 2 October.

In response, Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC issued a public statement on September 9 giving assurances that “no event other than those relating to official GAA activity or training will be taking place at club premises on that date”.

The statement said no request had been made to use the property for the ‘Saoradh Hunger Strike Commemoration’ and no permission given.

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Lyra McKee died after being shot in Creggan in 2019.

Saoradh is a republican political party often linked to the New IRA, the group allegedly responsible for the killing of journalist Lyra McKee during rioting in Londonderry in 2019. After her death, Saoradh issued a statement saying she had been killed “accidentally”.

However despite the undertakings by Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC, it appears that the Saoradh event did indeed form up in the club’s massive car park, before parading through the town. ‘The South Derry Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee’ notified the Parades Commission that their parade of 1000 participants and 2000 spectators would begin at Bellaghy GAC on the date in question.

After the event, photos began to circulate on social media which appeared to show men lined up in paramilitary style uniforms in the club’s car park - only yards from the club house - with the club’s name clearly visible in the photo.

An aerial photograph on social media also appeared to show the parade filing out of the club’s massive car park.

A lengthy report on the day’s events on the Saoradh website showed up to a dozen photos of coaches, cars and participants in paramilitary style uniforms in the club car park, again, with the club’s name clearly visible on the club house in a number of photographs.

UUP councillor Derek McKinney says he has spoken to an eye witness who confirmed to him that the parade “did form up on the grounds” of the club. “I was speaking to someone who saw it,” he said.

He had seen in a news report that the club had given undertakings that its grounds would only be used for GAA events on that date. “I read that article,” he said.

“I think the club should come out and say they were there and they weren’t welcome.”

The News Letter reached out to Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC, Ulster GAA and the GAA headquarters in Dublin repeatedly on Monday and Tuesday for comment, however there was no response to any inquiries.

Saoradh was also invited to comment, but again, there was no response to inquiries made.


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