Peadar Heffron’s GAA club responds one week later

Former PSNI constable Peadar Heffron who lost his leg in a terrorist attack pictured with with former GAA player and radio presenter Joe Brolly at the Dub in Belfast. Photo: Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
Former PSNI constable Peadar Heffron who lost his leg in a terrorist attack pictured with with former GAA player and radio presenter Joe Brolly at the Dub in Belfast. Photo: Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

A Gaelic football team heavily criticised by a former player who was bombed by dissident republicans after joining the police has insisted it condemns the murder bid without equivocation.

Peadar Heffron, who was severely injured in the under-car bomb blast in 2010, claimed last week that he was shunned by his home town club Kickhams Creggan, near Randalstown, Co Antrim, after signing up to the PSNI.

He also said he was “fairly certain” former team-mates passed his details to those behind the bomb.

After a week of pressure to comment on the claims, Kickhams Creggan issued a statement on Saturday denying any of its members had a role in the attack.

Mr Heffron lost a leg and sustained other serious injuries in the blast. He now uses a wheelchair and was invalided out of the PSNI.

His comments in an interview with the Sunday Independent opened up a heated debate on whether Catholic PSNI officers are offered enough support within republican and nationalist communities.

Before 2001, the GAA banned anyone from the UK security forces playing Gaelic games.

The scrapping of Rule 21 coincided with the creation of the PSNI, which replaced the Royal Ulster Constabulary, a force mistrusted by many within republicanism and nationalism and targeted by the IRA.

Mr Heffron, who joined the PSNI in 2002, was symbolic of the changing face of policing in Northern Ireland.

The Catholic Irish speaker and talented Gaelic footballer became captain of the PSNI’s GAA team.

But his comments have prompted questions about whether attitudes to the police within the GAA have really changed.

Last week, Kickhams Creggan repeatedly said “no comment” in response to questions from this newspaper and other media outlets.

But on Saturday the club broke its silence on the furore six days after the article appeared.

“Kickhams Creggan wishes to make clear that we condemn the attempted murder of Peadar Heffron unequivocally and without any ambiguity,” said a statement on the club’s website.

“Members of Kickhams Creggan called to Peadar’s family home in the aftermath of the horrific attack upon him to express their sympathy and support, and we absolutely sympathise with Peadar today and wish him well as he deals with the injuries inflicted on him in this awful deed.

“Furthermore, we support fully and encourage anyone with information on the despicable attack on Peadar to give that information straight to the police.

“We also wish to categorically deny the dangerous insinuations that members of Kickhams Creggan club acquiesced or played an active role in targeting or attempting to murder Peadar Heffron. These allegations are absolutely false.

“We are deeply saddened that the reputation of our club and integrity of its membership has been challenged this week and made the subject of undeserved controversy.”