Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Royal Mail man was branded an 'idiot' for waving Para flag is a convicted thug

By Ciaran Barnes, Chief Reporter Sunday Life

The fan branded an idiot after being caught waving a Parachute Regiment flag before Northern Ireland's match against the Republic is a convicted football thug.

Postman Paul Harding (41) was pictured with the banner at a roadside service station on the way to Thursday night's goalless draw at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

The Royal Mail worker's behaviour has been condemned as provocative by nationalists as inquests into the 1971 Ballymurphy Massacre, when 11 civilians were killed by the Parachute Regiment, opened last week.

Hooligan Harding has previous form for appalling behaviour at football matches and in 2005 was given a suspended jail sentence for rioting at a Glentoran v Linfield game.

Magistrate Desmond Perry compared his behaviour during clashes at the Oval to that of a "wild animal".

Harding, whose postal round covers the Sydenham area of east Belfast, was convicted after being photographed by Sunday Life running onto the pitch.

On Thursday he was among thousands of fans who crossed the border to attend the friendly match.

It was marred by poor crowd behaviour, with both national anthems booed and sectarian chanting throughout.

Politicians on both sides of the border condemned as "idiots" the small sections of supporters who were involved.

Harding was on a mini-coach of Northern Ireland fans that travelled from east Belfast to the match.

He was seen getting off the vehicle at a roadside service station and waving a purple Parachute Regiment flag at Republic supporters.

The Army unit was responsible for shooting dead 14 innocent civilians in Derry on Bloody Sunday in 1972.

Another video posted online shows a Republic fan attach a tricolour to the back of a Northern Ireland supporters coach that had stopped at another service station.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney condemned the behaviour of some fans at the game.

He said: "Embarrassed that a small number of fans booed the national anthem of Northern Ireland tonight at the Aviva. Competitive friendly, but Northern Ireland were our guests tonight in Dublin."

Gardai said there were a small number of clashes at the game, but no arrests were made.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie also hit out at the booing of the national anthems and sectarian chanting.

He added: "I think it is pretty simple - we should all show respect to a nation's national anthem.

"Each national anthem needs to be shown respect on sporting occasions like this and ordinarily it normally would.

"But I think this was not right to be honest."

cbarnes@sundaylife.co.uk

Belfast Telegraph

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