03 December 2005

Swoop ‘overkill’ says GAA

Daily Ireland


The GAA last night described a PSNI swoop at one of Ireland’s top football grounds as “overkill”.
PSNI officers raided Casement Park in Belfast as part of what the force described as an ongoing probe into illegal paramilitary activity and removed a number of items.
The GAA also distanced itself from the activities of three of its members arrested over two separate incidents in the North in the past week.
Yesterday, the PSNI raided the Antrim county ground at Casement Park in west Belfast in connection with the Northern Bank robbery.
On Tuesday, two of its Derry members, including Sinn Féin MLA Francie Brolly, were arrested allegdly in connection with the 1972 Claudy Bomb.
The Antrim County Board has lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman, while the Gaelic Athletic Association in Dublin has made complaints to Dublin Castle.
The two prominent Derry GAA figures were released without charge amid claims by Francie Brolly that his high-profile arrest was “political policing at its best”.
Fifteen PSNI Land Rovers and numerous personnel descended on the offices and social club at Casement yesterday morning.
Officers had warrants to search both premises at the park and told GAA staff the raid was part of an investigation in to “organised terrorist activity”.
Files and documents relating to staff wages and accounts, including cheque books, were taken from the offices.
Vice-Chair of the County Antrim Board, Gerry McClory said: “This was complete overkill. There was something sinister in their gung-ho approach.
“It was an attempt to discredit our members as being involved in terrorism. We have assisted the PSNI with their investigation before when they asked. We have absolutely nothing to hide.
“Do the police think we have £26 million (€38.5 million) hidden in the changing rooms?”
Christopher Ward, one of three people currently being held in police custody in connection with last year’s heist, works in Casement Park Social Club part-time.
The 24-year-old Northern Bank worker was held hostage while the thieves carried out the biggest robbery in Irish history.
He is being held under the Terrorism Act and police have until Sunday morning to either release him or charge him after they applied for an extension to the time available for questioning him on Thursday.
GAA officials have hit out at the arrests claiming the arrests of three of its members in one week as “overkill”.
President of the Gaelic Athletic Association, Seán Kelly, said: “We know what the PSNI are doing. Even if it is coincidental we are not happy. It is too much.”
Earlier a statement on the official GAA website stated they had reported the matter at the “highest level to the Dublin Government”.
“These people weren’t arrested as GAA members but as individuals who can belong or engage in other voluntary activities, like they belong to the GAA.
“GAA supporters across the country aren’t going to be influenced by such actions by the PSNI,” he added.
A 50-year-old Carrickfergus man was released without charge last night after being arrested earlier in the week in connection with the robbery.
Mr Ward’s girlfriend was also arrested on Tuesday but released without charge.

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