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Arlene Foster: Apology from Mickey Harte welcome but it must be followed up by action



DUP leader Arlene Foster

DUP leader Arlene Foster

DUP leader Arlene Foster

The swift apology by Mickey Harte after the publication of a video showing sectarian singing on the Tyrone GAA senior team bus in Aughnacloy on Saturday evening is welcome as a first step.

Those singing the rebel song about the IRA were being deliberately offensive. The person who shouted "pile of f***ing huns" was completely out of order and must be seen to be dealt with. That person should be held responsible for their comments.

That deeply sectarian and offensive remark was made about a local accordion band made up mainly of teenage girls.

I know many of the parents. I know many of the children in the band.

They were simply performing in parade for their neighbours and to raise money for another local band. They were not trying to offend anyone. Indeed, the parade is organised later on Saturday night to accommodate people attending Saturday evening mass in the local chapel. Aughnacloy is an example of neighbours working together for a shared future.

The Tyrone GAA team have held homecomings in Aughnacloy many times. I would be the first to condemn anyone who made similarly offensive and sectarian comments at such an event.

Sectarianism has no place in this society. It must be rooted out and that includes from within sections of the GAA.

Last year I travelled to Clones for my first GAA match. Fermanagh lost and some people criticised me because the GAA has still some way to travel to shake off the baggage it carries and in particular tournaments and grounds still carrying the names of people who took innocent life.

I want to help the GAA complete that journey.

I still speak with Ulster GAA and will continue to work to build a shared society where people who are Irish, British or Northern Irish can feel at home.

This sectarian outburst by some in such a senior team in the GAA will be a key test of the organisation. This is a time for leadership when many unionists are looking at the Tyrone County Board for their response.

The manager's apology was right and proper. I know Mickey. I know how sincere his comments are. The leadership of the County must be seen to take meaningful action against those responsible.

The GAA is in receipt of funding from public money as well as sponsors. Many are waiting to see the response of the sponsors to this offensive outburst.

Having spoken with families whose children were on parade, I know they want to see action taken and want to see everyone move on.

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