A long-standing GAA fan has contacted the News Letter to say the alleged ill-treatment of Peadar Heffron must be a “watershed” moment.
The man was reacting to the ex-policeman and Gaelic player’s claims that he was ostracised by his former club, both before and after dissident republicans blew him up in 2010.
The claims, carried in an interview with GAA pundit Joe Brolly, first appeared in the Sunday Independent.
Following the News Letter’s initial front-page report about the story on Tuesday, a man – whose identity the News Letter has agreed to withhold at his request – rang the paper to praise the coverage.
“I’m strongly a GAA person,” he said, adding that he had been involved with gaelic sport throughout his life.
“This is about human values. It’s very basic.
“Let’s get real in terms of basic respect for life.
“There’s lots of people abusing Joe Brolly. He is a bit controversial, but that is one of the highlights of his life, I think.
“This has to be a watershed for respect for values. Because a man goes and does something in another job, it’s not good enough that he has to pay a life sentence. His [Heffron’s] life has been ruined, basically.
“There are fundamental, common values here that need to be the basis of who we are and what we are.
“We have to get on with our neighbours. We live with them. Whether it’s in hospitals, work, offices, whatever.”
He said that people should ask of themselves “what we demand of others”.
The bombing had come at a time when the Province was changing, he said, and that as a Gaelic-playing police officer Mr Heffron had been “part of that change”.
The caller, who hails from Co Antrim, noted in particular that Mr Heffron is an Irish speaker, saying that he probably “speaks better Irish than all those boys who are holding us to ransom for an Irish language act, which is basically preposterous anyway”.
Ultimately though, he said the case was “unusual”, and that most people in the GAA “are not interested” in politics.
Although Mr Heffron’s old club has not commented on the matter, the Ulster GAA Council (the ruling body for gaelic sport in the Province) said it was working with Peadar and other members of the PSNI in “developing better relationships for all in our society”.