Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life reveals sports body’s controverisal memorials to dead IRA members in Ulster

By Aaron Tinney

Today we reveal the first complete list of GAA tributes to men and women who were IRA members. Our map shows how the memorials have spread across the whole of Northern Ireland as controversy over the issue increases.

And below, we detail the ways GAA grounds, contests, trophies and even badges are used to honour dead republican paramilitaries from the Troubles.

The sports body insists it is non-party political and republcians have stressed that competitions have been named after paramilitaries because they were veteran GAA members and talented athletes.

But their explanation did not satisfy Sports Minister Nelson McCausland last week.

He threatened to cut public funding for the organisation unless its “glorification” of dead paramiltaries stopped.

Nationalists accused him of using the GAA as a political football to curry favour with voters.

They also blasted him for ignoring loyalist tributes to murderers — such as the annual Brian Robinson memorial march which carries the name of the UVF killer.

Sinn Fein’s Barry McElduff raged yesterday: “Airbrushing history will achieve nothing. I wouldn’t be pushing for a trawl through loyalist bands and their names. We need to move forward.”

Mr McCausland attended his first GAA match yesterday for the International Police Gaelic Football Tournament final at Newforge Country Club in Belfast, hosted by the PSNI.

The GAA’s Ulster president Tom Daly said: “GAA places and spaces have been places where everybody, irrespective of political affiliation or none, has been welcome.” Many of the tributes below were created independently of GAA bosses, who have announced they would co-operate with any Government review.

Kevin Lynch

The GAA hurling club in Dungiven, Co Londonderry, is named after INLA member and former player Lynch.

He was the seventh of the 10 hunger strikers to die in 1981, after being sentenced to 10 years for stealing shotguns and conspiring to disarm the security forces. Lynch was captain of the 1972 All-Ireland-winning under-16 Derry team.

Joe Cahill

An under-12s football contest is played at Cardinal O’Donnell Park, west Belfast, in honour of the IRA veteran who died in 2004.

Cahill joined the IRA aged 18 and was convicted for his part in killing Catholic cop and dad-of-ten, Patrick Murphy, in 1942. He also was a key figure in founding the Provisional IRA in 1969.

Bobby Sands

The Cumann na Fuiseoige GAA club honours IRA hunger striker Sands, who grew up near its base in Twinbrook, west Belfast.

The club’s badge shows a lark, barb wire and a capital ‘H’ representing the H-block in the Maze prison where Sands — who was convicted of arms offences — was the first IRA hunger striker to die.

There is also a Bobby Sands Memorial soccer cup contest, held during the Feile an Phobail festival in west Belfast.

Mairead Farrell

A girls’ camogie championship played in Tullysaran, Co Armagh,

was named after IRA woman Farrell.

She spent 10 years in jail for bombing the Conway Hotel, Dunmurry, and was killed by the SAS in Gibraltar with fellow IRA members Sean Savage and Daniel McCann in 1988 with whom she allegedly planned to bomb an Army band.

Martin Hurson

A commemorative Martin Hurson Memorial cup final is played every year at Galbally Pearses Football Field near Dungannon in Co Tyrone.

The fifth of the H-block hunger strikers to die, Hurson was arrested in 1976 and quizzed over the attempted murder of UDR soldiers in a bomb attack.

The charge was dropped but he was convicted in relation to several other charges.

Michael McVerry

The first member of the IRA in south Armagh to be killed in the Troubles, McVerry was shot by soldiers in 1973 after placing a 100lb bomb at Keady RUC station, helped by five men who fought a running battle with cops after the device exploded.

The Michael McVerry cup is played for in Cullyhanna, Co Armagh, each year.

Gerard and Martin Harte

These East Tyrone IRA brothers were killed in a carefully-planned SAS ambush at Drumnakilly in 1988. Many branded it revenge for the Ballygawley bus attack 10 days earlier, which killed eight soldiers and injured 27 others.

Palyed at Loughmacrory, the Gerard and Martin Harte Memorial cup is now one of Tyrone's foremost under-12 Gaelic football tournaments.

Louis Leonard Memorial Park

The ground in Donagh, Fermanagh, was named after IRA man Louis, who was killed by loyalists in 1972 while working late in his shop in the village of Derrylin.

Loughgall bomber Paddy Kelly

The Paddy Kelly cup was played in Dungannon, Co Tyrone as part of commemorations for the IRA Loughgall “martyrs”. A heavily-armed IRA unit including Kelly and O’Callaghan was trying to blow up a part-time police station in Loughgall, Co Tyrone, with a 200lb bomb when they were gunned down by the SAS.

McDonnell/Doherty Park

The home ground of the St Teresas GAA club in west Belfast is named after hunger strikers and former players Joe McDonnell and Kieran Doherty.

McDonnell had been arrested in 1976 with Bobby Sands following a bomb attack on a furniture store in Dunmurry and Doherty was convicted for possession of firearms, explosives and hijacking.

Jim Lochrie and Sean


Lochrie/Campbell GAA Park in Dromintee, south Armagh is named after IRA members Jim Lochrie and Sean Campbell who were killed when a land mine exploded prematurely at Kelly's Road, Killeen in 1975.

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