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Police widow Kate Carroll in tears after GAA symbol row hits fundraiser

By Claire McNeilly

PSNI widow Kate Carroll has been caught up in a sectarian storm while fundraising for a forthcoming trip to America.

Mrs Carroll, wife of the first PSNI officer to be murdered by paramilitaries, had been organising a visit to New York, hopefully along with car bomb victim Constable Peadar Heffron and his wife Fiona.

The party have been invited to attend a bi-annual GAA tournament hosted by the New York Police Department (NYPD) in October of next year.

But the fundraising effort has been hampered by people refusing to sign the sponsor form — because it carries both the PSNI and GAA logos.

“It's ridiculous. This has left me in tears,” said Kate, whose husband Stephen was shot by the Continuity IRA in Craigavon last March.

“People from one side of the community won't touch it because it mentions the PSNI and some on the other side refuse to get involved because of the GAA logo.

“Others have given quite willingly — and they know who they are. But I’ve felt totally disillusioned by those who don’t want to know and it has upset me a lot.

“Most local people have been so helpful and supportive since Steve's death and it's a pity a sectarian element has crept into this.”

She added: “It wasn’t even the disrespect towards Steve that bothered me the most. The two emblems there together on the same piece of paper would have meant history being made.”

Mrs Carroll also revealed that former US President Bill Clinton wrote her a letter praising her efforts to promote peace within the community.

The sponsorship form with PSNI and GAA logos on it

It read: “As you know, I was honoured to help advance peace negotiations during my Presidency, and I'm glad to see that citizens are speaking out against terrorism and violence. Your contributions are a remarkable tribute to the memory of your husband, and I hope you'll continue this important work.”

Meanwhile, Constable Heffron (34) is continuing his recovery after losing a leg after a bomb exploded under his car five months ago, on January 8.

The former captain of the PSNI's GAA team, and a fluent Irish speaker, was targeted by Oglaigh na hEireann assassins, but miraculously survived.

After spending many weeks in intensive care, he is continuing to recuperate in hospital. The brave policeman and his wife have said health concerns will determine whether he can make the journey.

Mrs Carroll — who hopes to raise £10,000 for the US trip — will present the Stephen Carroll Memorial Trophy to the man of the match following the GAA tournament.

She is now heavily involved in cross-community group Parents And Kids Together (PAKT), which established ‘Not in My Name’ after her husband’s murder and aims to promote wide-spread inter-religious co-operation.

Cheque donations for the USA trip next year can be sent c/o Belfast Telegraph to be forwarded.

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