GAA remains silent for seven days after dissident republican parade linked to Lyra McKee

The GAA at national, provinicial and club level has declined to comment over the past seven days in relation to reports of a dissident group linked to the killing of Lyra McKee staging a major parade from the grounds of a GAA club.

Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 4:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 1:44 pm

Seven days ago the News Letter reported that Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC was being asked to give an explanation for the affair. The political party Saoradh issued flyers last month 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 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”.

Saoradh is a republican political party often linked to the New IRA, which is allegedly responsible for killing journalist Lyra McKee in 2019.

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Lyra McKee died after being shot in Creggan in 2019.

However it appears that the Saoradh parade did indeed form up in the club’s massive car park, before parading through the town. An application to the Parades Commission said the parade would be staged from the club.

A lengthy report on the events on the Saoradh website appeared to show a dozen photos of coaches, cars and participants in paramilitary style uniforms forming up in the club’s car park.

The News Letter invited the club, Ulster GAA and the GAA in Dublin for comment repeatedly over the past week, without any response.

But DUP Mid Ulster MLA Keith Buchanan has now written to the GAA Ulster Council and the club for answers.

He said Saoradh has been responsible for some “outrageous statements”. He added: “Most notably when journalist Lyra McKee was murdered, Saoradh released a statement saying: ‘A republican volunteer attempted to defend people from the PSNI/RUC . . . Tragically a young journalist, Lyra McKee, was killed accidentally.’”

He said:”The Ulster Council and the club must at once make a clear statement explaining how their facilities were used and condemn the use of violence, support the police and call for those who murdered Lyra McKee to be prosecuted”. Otherwise, he said, the club should be barred from public funding and any public grants should be recouped. Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Department for Communities were also invited to comment.

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