Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

GAA pitch dispute with British Army sparked official Irish probe

Spats between security forces and the GAA in the border town of Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, were investigated by the Irish government after a top-level meeting in 1980.

According to newly released official papers, Irish Foreign Minister Brian Lenihan heard from GAA chiefs about a British Army plan to build a 20-feet-high wall for security reasons on requisitioned land just 12 feet from a goalpost at the town’s Crossmaglen Rangers GAA club.

The club protested that they would be unable to retrieve balls kicked over the wall during matches.

Locals also claimed the move signalled a provocation as they considered there was no proper and convincing case for constructing the wall.

In addition, players were reckoned to be at risk from a continuous flow of heavily armoured military vehicles as they left the changing rooms.

Mr Lenihan accepted that building the wall had been provocative and “would only serve to increase tension”.

The minister was also told of complaints by Co Cork GAA officials that they were intimidated by security force personnel at Crossmaglen when they stopped there while returning from the organisation's annual conference at |Newcastle, Co Down.

The Crossmaglen GAA ground was sited next door to the local RUC barracks, which was home to troops since 1970, soon after they were called in to Northern Ireland.

Helicopters landing in a corner of the pitch often came under fire and a section of the land was compulsorily acquired in the mid-1970s when the GAA refused to lease it to the Army.

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