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Security alert at East Belfast GAA 'attempt to intimidate'

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Police at the scene of a security alert at East Belfast GAA at Henry Jones' Playing Fields in the Castlereagh Hills on August 6th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Police at the scene of a security alert at East Belfast GAA at Henry Jones' Playing Fields in the Castlereagh Hills on August 6th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Police at the scene of a security alert at East Belfast GAA at Henry Jones' Playing Fields in the Castlereagh Hills on August 6th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A security alert at the training ground of East Belfast GAA has been deemed a hoax.

The DUP's East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said the alert was a "clear attempt" to intimidate the recently formed GAA club.

East Belfast MLA Andy Allen said the alert was "totally abhorrent behaviour" and not representative of the area.

Police were at the scene from Wednesday evening after reports multiple explosives had been planted. Nothing untoward was found after a search and police are treating the incident as a sectarian hate crime.

A forensic examination has taken place on a nearby telephone box.

Henry Jones' Playing Fields in the Castlereagh Hills was cordoned off as police investigated.

The playing fields are owned and operated by Belfast City Council and used by a wide-range of different groups.

In a statement East Belfast GAA said their training session on Wednesday evening had been disrupted after police received a call that a package had been left at their training ground.

On the advice of police the training session was abandoned.

"The club expresses its thanks to both the PSNI and to our playing members, who behaved impeccably during the situation," the club statement read.

"The creation and maintenance of a safe environment for sport to be played by all and the safety of our members whilst playing remains a priority for us all.

"The club intends to continue to work with the police, the community in east Belfast, and the public at large, whose support we have enjoyed on a daily basis, to ensure the continued safety and enjoyment of our members and patrons.

"Our door remains open, to all. The matter has now been passed to the PSNI. The club does not intend to make further comment at this tine."

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Police at the scene of a security alert at East Belfast GAA at Henry Jones' Playing Fields in the Castlereagh Hills on August 6th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Police at the scene of a security alert at East Belfast GAA at Henry Jones' Playing Fields in the Castlereagh Hills on August 6th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Police at the scene of a security alert at East Belfast GAA at Henry Jones' Playing Fields in the Castlereagh Hills on August 6th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Mr Robinson said the attempt to intimidate the club "must be condemned by everyone and without reservation".

"Once again we must thank the police and security forces who searched the site and put themselves in harm’s way in order to keep us all safe. Thankfully nothing was found and the alert has now ended.," he said.

His comments were echoed by UUP MLA Mr Allen.

"Whilst this was a hoax, the fear that this behaviour creates will be present amongst those who were training at the pitches last night," he said.

“These pitches are widely used by all members of the community and those seeking to intimidate anyone playing sports there needs to wise up.”

Sinn Fein's North Belfast MP John Finucane called the threat "despicable".

“The GAA is inclusive and it welcomes people from all backgrounds and none," he said.

“The sporting fraternity must stand together against this attack on the growth of the GAA and on a society which is moving forward. It’s unacceptable.”

Alliance Councillor Eric Hanvey said those behind the security alert were "an absolute disgrace" and did not represent east Belfast.

“East Belfast GAA has received plaudits from right across the community, and rightly so, in their attempt to help build a better future in east Belfast by bringing people together via sport, so they can live, work and play together in peace," he said.

“Those behind security alerts such as these are clearly not interested in something so positive but rather only division and destruction. They are unwanted in east Belfast or anywhere else, and I urge anyone with information on them to contact police with it immediately.”

SDLP councillor Seamas De Faoite said the alert was an "appalling attempt to intimidate East Belfast GAA".

“No team should feel threatened by those who seek to deny that the GAA can be just as much a part of the character and spirit of East Belfast as any other sport," he said.

East Belfast GAA formed earlier this year. It received a huge interest from people right across the community to take part.

The club made its debut in the Down All-County Football League last month. It has yet to find a ground in east Belfast for home matches.

Its motto is "together" which features on its crest in Irish, Ulster Scot and English.

Police said enquiries into the incident are ongoing and anyone with information is asked to contact police at Strandtown on 101 quoting reference number 1693 05/08/20.

A report can also be submitted online using the non-emergency reporting form via http://www.psni.police.uk/makeareport/.

You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at http://crimestoppers-uk.org/.

Belfast Telegraph