Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: GAA needs to act on offensive behaviour

The behaviour of some members of the Tyrone GAA football panel seen singing a pro-IRA song and shouting an offensive sectarian remark at a passing band parade was reprehensible. There should be no place for such attitudes in Northern Ireland in 2019. (stock photo)
The behaviour of some members of the Tyrone GAA football panel seen singing a pro-IRA song and shouting an offensive sectarian remark at a passing band parade was reprehensible. There should be no place for such attitudes in Northern Ireland in 2019. (stock photo)

Editor's Viewpoint

The behaviour of some members of the Tyrone GAA football panel seen singing a pro-IRA song and shouting an offensive sectarian remark at a passing band parade was reprehensible. There should be no place for such attitudes in Northern Ireland in 2019.

Manager Mickey Harte was right to quickly condemn the conduct of some of his players and to apologise to anyone who was offended by their behaviour. It is also right that the matter should be investigated by Tyrone GAA and action taken against those responsible.

The outcome of the investigation and the sanctions taken against the players should also be made public.

DUP leader Arlene Foster acted with commendable restraint in her comments on the incident, especially in pointing out that the behaviour of those involved was not representative of many of those who follow GAA games.

Not only was the behaviour juvenile and offensive, it was also stupid. It is a given in today's world that such incidents will be videoed on someone's mobile telephone and inevitably end up on social media.

The band members who paraded in Aughnacloy on Saturday evening were not aware of the rebel song or offensive remark directed at them until the incident went viral.

In a similar way some Northern Ireland fans were caught on video earlier this year singing a song containing lyrics such as 'we hate Catholics'. A Tyrone soccer club to which some of these fans were affiliated promised to take action against any it could identify and the IFA and the Amalgamation of NI Supporters Club also took prompt action.

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Fans of sporting clubs look up to the players as role models and the GAA makes much of its community responsibilities. The Tyrone players responsible for the singing and offensive remark on Saturday evening fell well short of that role, as did Michael Conlon in March when he entered the ring in the United States to a pro-IRA song. He later apologised for the playing of that music.

It was ironic that their comments should be directed at a band which had exercised community responsibility by organising its parade after local mass time so that no offence would be caused.

Arlene Foster is correct in saying that we need more mutual respect in Northern Ireland and the building of shared space. The many working tirelessly to build a more inclusive society must despair at the divisive antics of others.

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