Coalisland Athletic: IFA investigates video of pro-IRA chanting on team bus

The IFA is investigating video footage which appears to show some members of a Coalisland soccer team chanting pro-IRA slogans on their bus after winning a competition.

By Philip Bradfield
Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 2:56 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 8:57 pm

Coalisland Athletic secured a 4-1 win over Bangor Young Men in the Junior Cup Final at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park on Monday afternoon.

But a brief video clip of their celebrations, which is circulating on social media, shows around a dozen men dancing on a team bus with some chanting “Up the Ra”, generally considered to be support for the IRA.

An Irish FA spokesman confirmed that the team featured in the video footage was Coalisland Athletic.

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The IFA says that it is investigating the team coach video in which some men were heard chanting pro-IRA slogans.

He added: “We are aware of the footage which has appeared on social media and the matter will be investigated accordingly.”

The Mid Ulster Football Association said it was “very disappointed about it”.

It added: “We’re very saddened that this has come about. We haven’t spoken to the club as of yet, but we have been getting messages to our social media about it. We have a planned Council meeting soon and it will be discussed.

“We’re a volunteer Council who try to run our Association to the highest standards we possibly can and this incident on Irish Junior Cup day yesterday is with the IFA’s disciplinary department for them to consider.

“The clubs in our local area in province-wide competitions are doing absolutely fantastic and this is something that all could certainly do without after a fine win by Coalisland, who we have applauded and congratulated for their excellent achievement in lifting the top junior trophy for the first time.”

Coalisland Athletic has been approached by the News Letter for comment.

DUP Mid Ulster assembly candidate Keith Buchanan said that songs glorifying terrorist organisations should play no part in sport.

He said: “The footage in question appears to have been posted onto the team’s Facebook page but has been removed. It is a significant achievement for any team to win the Irish Junior Cup but this significantly tarnishes that achievement. The club should confirm the authenticity of this video, and where it stands on such behaviour. It isn’t acceptable behaviour by fans in the stands at a ground and it certainly isn’t acceptable for players on the team bus. There can be no place for such songs in sport.

“The players on this team will not have been alive during the worst years of IRA terrorism and will not remember the realities of IRA terrorism. That does not provide an excuse however and the terrorism of the past is no more excusable than atrocities carried out today whether in Russia or elsewhere. If we are to move Northern Ireland forward, there should be a united acceptance that such scenes are unacceptable.

“I know other local representatives including Michelle O’Neill have offered their congratulations to the team. I hope they will now also join with a call for the club to apologise for this behaviour and be clear that such scenes will not be repeated.”

The UUP’s Mid Ulster Assembly candidate, Meta Graham, also condemned the chanting.

“The behaviour on the Coalisland Athletic team coach after their win in the Junior Cup Final was utterly disgraceful,” she said.

“Instead of celebrating a Cup win, some members of the team could be heard indulging in sectarian chanting in support of the IRA.“The people behind the chanting clearly have no difficulty with the atrocities committed by the IRA - not least in Mid Ulster - during the Troubles. There is no excuse for this and nothing to be gained by playing this down. If the club has any interest in how it is perceived and in community relations then it needs to acknowledge the offence caused, apologise and commit to ensuring this is never repeated in the future.”

Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry also condemned the language used. In 2020 he criticised a new Linfield FC away strip as being similar in colours to the UVF, which claimed over 500 lives during the Troubles.

“This may well be purely coincidental and unintentional, but I do think a rethink would be appropriate,” he said of the orange and purple colours at the time. “The similarity to UVF colours is too striking. Many other colours and designs are available. Why leave any ambiguity and risk offence to so many?”

Today, he too condemned the language used in the Coalisland Athletic video clip. “There is no place for the glorification or supporting of terrorism in sport or indeed wider society,” he said. “”I utterly condemn this incident and call on those involved to apologise.”

As well as Coalisland Athletic, the News Letter also invited Sinn Fein and the SDLP to comment.