| 8.5°C Belfast

Boxer Michael Conlan walking out to pro-IRA song in New York angers unionists

 

Close

Michael Conlan makes his way to the ring at Madison Square Garden on St Patrick’s Day

Michael Conlan makes his way to the ring at Madison Square Garden on St Patrick’s Day

Michael Conlan punches Mexico’s Ruben Garcia Hernandez

Michael Conlan punches Mexico’s Ruben Garcia Hernandez

AP

Guy Spence

Guy Spence

Michael Conlan makes his way to the ring at Madison Square Garden on St Patrick’s Day

DUP leader Arlene Foster has urged boxing fans who chanted a pro-IRA slogan in New York on St Patrick's Day to educate themselves and stop glorifying terror.

The former First Minister made the plea after west Belfast boxer Michael Conlan (27) provoked outrage by walking out to The Wolfe Tones song Celtic Symphony in Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

The former amateur world champion and Olympic bronze medallist made his way to the ring to the track which includes the lyrics "Ooh ah up the Ra" - and many in the crowd chanted along.

The father-of-two was followed into the Hulu Theater by WWE star Finn Balor, and the wrestler from Bray waved a tricolour in support of Conlan before the bout.

Yesterday, Mrs Foster referred to IRA murder victim Gillian Johnston (21), who was gunned down outside her parent's home in Leggs near Belleek on March 18, 1988.

"Those chanting 'ooh ah up the Ra' should take a moment and read about what IRA done on this day 31 years ago," she wrote on Twitter.

"Not actions worthy of glory.

"All terrorism was wrong and should be condemned - not glorified."

Bride-to-be Miss Johnston had been driven to their isolated farm by her fiance Stanley Leggett.

As the Protestant couple said goodnight two men riddled the passenger side of the vehicle with bullets and fled across the nearby border.

The young woman's distraught mother ran outside to discover her lying dead and her partner seriously injured.

Former Lord Mayor and DUP councillor Brian Kingston said it is "disgraceful" that the boxer "has no regard for the victims" of IRA terrorism.

"Very disappointing that Michael Conlan does not follow the lead of many previous boxing and sporting heroes so that people can support him across the divide," he added.

Conlan went on to maintain his unbeaten record by claiming his 11th pro victory against Ruben Garcia Hernandez, but it seems he has lost some fans along the way.

DUP councillor Guy Spence missed the fight because after he turned the channel over in disbelief.

"Anyone who knows me will know of my admiration & support for our boxers, but this is something I can never EVER support," he wrote on Twitter.

Many others flocked to social media to express disgust.

"Thought you were a decent lad," one ex-fan wrote on his Facebook page. "But after that, glorifying the IRA on your walkout, the whole boxing world should be ashamed of you."

Others drew comparisons with boxing greats such as Carl Frampton and Barry McGuigan who are "loved by both sides" of the community.

In 2012, Conlan tweeted an anti-sectarian message.

But in a subsequent TV appearance on RTE's The Late Late Show he described how he fell in love with "rebel music" while living in Los Angeles in 2017.

"I was a full force rebel when I came back... it really was crazy," he said.

Last night Conlan showed no regrets for his song choice when he took to Facebook to thank fans for their support adding: "The Irish run New York."

In 2017 the Clonard Amateur Boxing Club unveiled a huge image of its most famous son as it opened a new state-of-the-art training base.

The club declined to comment last night.

Belfast Telegraph