Belfast Telegraph

Police treat GAA team bus video as ‘a hate incident’

An image from the Tyrone GAA bus video
An image from the Tyrone GAA bus video
Mickey Harte
Rosemary Barton

By Gillian Halliday

Police are treating a video which recorded a person on board a GAA team bus saying a sectarian slur as teenage girls in a band parade walked past as a "hate incident".

The PSNI last night revealed it had launched an investigation after receiving a complaint about the footage, which was captured last weekend.

The video - in which a person made a reference to a "pile of f****** huns" as an accordion band passes the stopped coach - has sparked widespread condemnation since it emerged on Monday.

DUP leader Arlene Foster had condemned the incident, which took place last Saturday evening in Aughnacloy as the Tyrone team bus was returning from a game in Clones.

The band parade had been organised at a time to ensure it would not affect Mass-goers in the border town.

The video, which also showed some players singing the rebel song Come Out Ye Black And Tans, prompted an apology from team manager Mickey Harte within hours of its emergence.

He apologised to anyone who may have been offended by the incident, but added he would not be making any further comment on the matter, which would be handled internally.

Yesterday PSNI Superintendent Mike Baird said the incident is now the subject of a probe after police received a complaint on Tuesday afternoon about the video.

"This is being treated as a hate incident at this time and we will investigate to establish if any offences have been committed," said the senior officer.

The development has been welcomed by UUP MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Rosemary Barton, who called on the PSNI to treat the investigation the same as an incident involving Northern Ireland football fans earlier this year.

In March a police probe was launched after footage showing fans singing "we hate Catholics" to the tune of I Think We're Alone Now.

Mrs Barton said: "I have written to the PSNI asking how they are treating this incident compared to other similar incidents, particularly when NI football supporters were questioned by police for singing in a Belfast bar earlier this year.

"I want to ensure that these players are treated in an equal manner to the football supporters of a few months ago."

She stressed that regardless of the outcome of police investigation, the incident has once again brought into focus the GAA's historic links to republicanism.

TUV councillor Stephen Cooper insisted the GAA should "not brush the incident under the carpet".

"Far from being unrepresentative of the GAA, it fits well with an organisation which continues to celebrate the actions of people like hunger striker Kevin Lynch, who has a club named in his honour," he said.

"What sort of sporting organisation names a club after someone convicted of kneecapping someone from the area in which the club is situated?

"Saturday provided something of an answer to that question."

He also insisted the incident must be treated the same as the incident involving the NI supporters in Belfast.

"Their conduct was unacceptable, but media organisations had no hesitation in broadcasting that unacceptable behaviour with their faces clearly visible," he said.

"This incident should be a catalyst for the GAA to examine the culture within the organisation."

Meanwhile, the Tyrone county board again refused to disclose if Mr Harte was present on board the bus when the incident took place.

It was contacted yesterday, however no response was forthcoming.

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