Belfast Telegraph

DUP anger as gaelic match named after one of ‘Gibraltar Three’ for second year

Shot dead: Mairead Farrell
Shot dead: Mairead Farrell

By Gillian Halliday

A Co Armagh community festival has sparked controversy for the second consecutive year after holding a sporting event named after one of the 'Gibraltar Three'.

DUP councillor Gareth Wilson said the decision by organisers of the West Armagh Community Festival to name a ladies' Gaelic football tournament after Mairead Farrell was sending young people "the wrong message".

Farrell was one of three members of a Provisional IRA active service unit shot dead two days before they planned to bomb a parade of the Royal Anglian Regiment in Gibraltar in 1988.

Last August the festival staged the same event, along with an under-14s football tournament in honour of local Official IRA men Tony Hughes and Jake McGerrigan - who were killed by soldiers in 1973 - on playing fields owned by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council (ABC).

West Armagh Consortium defended running both events again last week, telling the Ulster Gazette the long-running festival had become an "annual political football row for unionist councillors".

The use of council property by festival organisers last year had prompted criticism from unionists, who said at the time that it amounted to the "glorification of terrorism" and caused "deep hurt" to victims of IRA terrorism.

This resulted in the DUP and UUP passing notices of motion banning ABC council from allowing any of its facilities to be used to "glorify" individuals linked to terrorism.

The Belfast Telegraph understands, however, that the council received legal advice after the DUP's motion had been called in - a mechanism which enables motions to be reconsidered - resulting in it being scrapped.

In it, the DUP had called on the council to condemn the naming of the GAA tournament, as well as calling on the council to review its association with the festival organisers.

The remaining UUP motion, which called on the council to examine its policies to ensure it would not provide financial assistance to or host any event that seeks to glorify terrorism, resulted in ABC carrying out a review which has yet to be completed.

Mr Wilson said the repeat of last year's controversy was an unwelcome development given the row sparked by the pro-IRA chanting during a Wolfe Tones concert at Feile an Phobail on Sunday for the second year in a row.

"This type of event is becoming more commonplace whereby republican terrorists are being eulogised and promoted to younger audiences," he said.

"This sends out a very disappointing and wrong message to the next generation of young people in Northern Ireland."

Addressing the Armagh event specifically, he said it had caused "significant concern over a number of years".

"(The event) has prompted a significant review of procedures by ABC council officials," Mr Wilson added. "This work will seek to adjust policy in order to prevent any deliberate association with any terrorist organisation on council property.

"This process is due to be completed soon. Given the widespread negativity this event generated previously, it is disappointing that once again the same issues are to the fore."

In response, festival organisers said they had been informed the event had not been in breach of "any council policy" by council officials.

"During (a) meeting, festival organisers specifically asked council officials if the festival was illegal or in breach of any council policy. They were told no," they continued.

"Council officials were then informed that the festival would go ahead this year as planned."

The group did not respond to a request for comment from this newspaper.

The council also declined to issue a further statement to this newspaper concerning the matter.

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