Belfast Telegraph

GAA players 'free to join police'

By Brett Campbell

A senior member of the Ulster Council of the Gaelic Athletic Association has said players should be free to join the PSNI without fear of consequence.

Referring to what he described as the "harrowing tales" of former police officer Peadar Heffron, who lost his leg in a republican booby trap bomb in 2010, provincial secretary Brian McEvoy said the message must be heard by everyone.

He insisted: "The message should be heard loud and clear that any GAA member who wishes to consider a career in policing should do so free in the knowledge that it will not impact in any way on the membership of their local GAA club - we at least owe that much to Peadar."

The comments come less than a month after Mr Heffron spoke out about the hostility he experienced at his Co Antrim club after deciding to join the PSNI in 2002.

Mr Heffron said he was shunned by Kickhams Creggan GAC in Randalstown, Co Antrim, and isolated in training sessions after joining the force.

He also claimed dissident republicans handed out leaflets in the club changing rooms warning players not to do the same.

Speaking at a GAA conference yesterday, which was attended a number of officers, Mr McEvoy told delegates that change takes time and people adapt at different paces.

He said: "Peadar Heffron got to realise this first-hand when he was treated less than respectfully by some of his team-mates and club members," he said.

The GAA's Ulster secretary explained Mr Heffron's decision to join the PSNI came just three months after the GAA removed a 16-year-old rule banning members of the security forces from being club members.

But he also claimed Kickhams Creggan had been subjected to "some over-the-top and unfair criticism".

He insisted that the GAA has matured in the seven years since the attack.

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin wrote on Twitter afterwards that he was pleased by the "unequivocal statement of support" from Ulster GAA "for their members who choose a career in PSNI".

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