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Top GAA figure speaks of Troubles challenges

Valerie Robinson Southern Correspondent newsdesk@irishnews.com

THE GAA's general secretary has said the sporting body faced serious challenges during the Troubles.

Monaghan native Paraic Duffy yesterday said that the occupation by the British army of the Crossmaglen GAA grounds and border security measures had been "difficult" during the conflict.

"The whole period of the Troubles was difficult for the GAA because clearly the GAA, particularly in the six counties, was identified as being composed of nationalists," he said.

Mr Duffy recalled travelling across the border with school teams, when he was principal of St Macartan's College in Monaghan, and "being stopped at checkpoints and the kids getting off the bus and being searched".

"That was the norm. So, it was difficult," he told RTE Radio's Sean O'Rourke.

However, Mr Duffy said that despite the problems, he believed the association came through the period "quite well".

The GAA chief also recalled first learning of loyalist car bomb attacks in Dublin and Monaghan four decades ago.

Thirty four people, including an unborn baby, were killed while 250 were injured when in three explosions occurred in Dublin and a fourth in Monaghan on May 17 1974.

Speaking on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the attacks, Mr Duffy said he had known Monaghan victim, 73-year-old farmer and publican Archibald Harper from Rockcorry. Six others also died in the blast.

He was driving to Dublin for a GAA meeting when he heard that there had been bombings in Dublin, later discovering Monaghan had also been targeted.

"People [in Monaghan] were much closer to the Troubles than perhaps people in Dublin were," he said.

"I wouldn't say people took it in their stride, it was a shocking event, but in a sense people in the border area were used to pretty shocking incidents."

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