Belfast Telegraph

MLA vows to support hockey club over Sunday stance ban

Jim Wells
Jim Wells
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

A decision to ban Kilkeel hockey club from all cup competitions next season because they won't play matches on a Sunday is an example of how Christians are being punished for their beliefs, an MLA has said.

The club withdrew from an Irish Senior Cup quarter-final against Dublin side Glenanne as the tie was scheduled for a Sunday.

The sport's governing body, Hockey Ireland, said it dealt with the situation as per its rules. It means all teams representing the Co Down club will not be permitted to take part in any all-island cup competition in the 2019/20 season.

Mr Wells, who no longer holds the DUP party whip, said the club would have his full support should they choose to appeal the ban.

"It's very sad that Irish Hockey seem unable to facilitate people who have commitments on a Sunday," he said.

"It should have been easy to move the match to a Saturday.

"Kilkeel are playing well and are the top team in Ulster at the minute. They don't have a problem in Ulster as the games are on a Saturday or played in midweek."

Mr Wells added that "when you step back and look at the situation, Christians are being punished for their principles".

"I wonder what the result would be if the situation arose on the UK mainland and a team from a Jewish background refused to play on a Saturday, or a team from a Muslim tradition had not wished to play on a Friday due to their beliefs?"

The Equality Commission said it can advise any organisation or individual that feels they may have suffered unlawful discrimination. "In cases other than employment matters, it would be for a County Court to decide whether or not any unlawful discrimination has occurred," the commission added.

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