17 September 2005

Loyalists targeting GAA

Daily Ireland

By Connla Young

GAA clubs in Co Derry have been urged to check their premises after the PSNI warned they are being targeted by loyalists.
County board officials contacted 18 clubs in the district yesterday after the PSNI claimed they received intelligence that GAA clubs in the Magherafelt District Command Unit area were under threat of loyalist attack.
It is understood the loyalist plot involves scattering crushed glass on playing surfaces at club grounds across south Derry where hundreds of adults and children train and play daily.
The PSNI last night confirmed that they have carried out searches at GAA clubs in the Magherafelt area.
News of threat comes one week after a St John’s Catholic church, Magherafelt, which sits just yards from the town’s O’ Donovan Rossa GAA club, was targeted in in a sectarian graffiti attack. It was the second incident at the small historical church in two weeks.
The adjacent GAA facility formed part of yesterday’s PSNI searches. The club has been the target of several loyalist pipe bomb and glass attacks in recent years.
In the late 1990s a number of GAA clubs in the south Derry area were targeted in a series of sectarian pipe bomb attacks. These attacks were widely believed to have been the work of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). The GAA community across the island was rocked in 1997 when Bellaghy Wolfe Tones chairman Sean Brown was abducted and gunned down by the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) as he locked up at club premises.
South Derry Board secretary Brian Smyth says the latest warning is being taken seriously by members.
“We have sent word to all clubs that this is to be treated as a serious warning. That is not a guarantee that something is going to happen but we are putting everybody on alert because of their seriousness of the calls we have received.
“Clubs in the area have been targeted in the past and of course Sean Brown was murdered, which is still in the headlines. These sorts of things do create fear but I would like to think that this fear will not stop us playing our games.
“We were told when contacted that intelligence was received that crushed glass would be used on local fields. But we have advised clubs to be on the look out for anything suspicious.”
Magherafelt Sinn Féin councillor Sean McPeake condemned the latest attack.
“I would hope this is not the start of another campaign against the GAA in this area.
“It’s very worrying when you consider the attack on the nearby church in recent weeks. The GAA provides an important service for the youth of the area and it’s unacceptable that loyalist paramilitaries and people of evil intent would act in this way.”

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