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Councillor furious at claims over Tesco GAA shirts row

By Matthew McCreary

An Antrim councillor has hit out after being accused of complaining about a charity supermarket bag packing by members of a local GAA club.

Adrian Watson, who is also the Ulster Unionist deputy mayor of Antrim, said he was angry that his name had been brought into the furore surrounding the story after it was featured on the BBC's Talk Back programme yesterday.

Youngsters from St Comghall's club were taking part in the event at the Tesco store in Antrim town on Sunday when they were asked to remove their GAA shirts and carry out the work in plain T-shirts.

The request by a Tesco manager was made after members of the public and a local political representative objected to the items of clothing being worn.

Mr Watson said the political representative mentioned in the story was not him. He added that he was contacted by angry constituents the following day and that he had tried to defuse the situation.

And he branded reports that he had been involved in complaining as “a load of nonsense”.

“I have not spoken to or complained to Tesco,” he said.

“I had people in my office complaining about it on Monday. I asked them not to go down there and get into an argument.

“I quietened people down. It wasn’t me that was there.”

Mr Watson said that Tesco should have put more thought into the event because of the angry reaction he had witnessed from constituents.

“It could have been quite confrontational from other members of the community,” he said. “I have worked to defuse that. I have no difficulty with the GAA club.”

A Tesco spokesperson said that it was the company’s policy to ask that groups wear their uniforms so customers will know the organisation for which they are collecting.

“This gives the customer the option to go to another checkout if they do not wish to support this particular organisation,” they said.

“On Sunday we had a number of very vociferous complaints both in person and on the phone, including one from a political representative, regarding the wearing of the GAA shirts while the group were collecting.

“It is understandable that our duty manager then deviated from Tesco policy and asked that those packing should do so in plain T-shirts. Subsequently we have had several complaints to the store, both from those opposed to the GAA shirts being worn and those opposed to the duty manager asking for the shirts to be removed.”

The company said it was re-assessing its bag-packing procedures from yesterday.

South Antrim SDLP Assemblyman Thomas Burns said he would be seeking an apology on behalf of the young people involved over the matter.

He said: “I find it deeply disappointing and shameful in the extreme. If it happened to my children they would not be going back.”

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