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GAA bans gay ref from wearing 'pride' wristband

Andrea McKernon newsdesk@irishnews.com

THE GAA has banned Ireland's only openly gay referee from wearing a gay pride rainbow wristband at Croke Park.

David Gough, who is on the GAA's elite panel of inter-county referees, wanted to wear the 'freedom' wristband to highlight equality and homophobia in sport at the Dublin and Tyrone national league clash in Dublin on Saturday.

He also wanted to sport the wristband as a personal gesture of support for a 'Yes' vote in the forthcoming referendum on same-sex civil marriage in the Republic.

But at the last minute he was refused permission and forced to remove the band before officiating in front of more than 30,000 fans at GAA headquarters, Croke Park.

Mr Gough (31), the country's first openly gay GAA match official, was initially granted permission by senior figures in the association.

The primary school teacher from Co Meath said he had informed his school principal as well as GAA referees' chief Patrick Doherty on Friday that he wished to wear the wristband.

But the decision was later over-turned by the Croke Park authorities in the hours before the throw-in for the Allianz football league clash.

"I was told flatly that I could not do it. I am disappointed, dismayed and feel I, and all gay members of the association, have been let down," the referee, who has been openly gay since 2011 when he was in his twenties, said.

"I suppose that in the current climate it was simply my gesture of support for same-sex civil marriage but mostly to raise the issue of equality and homophobia in sport.

"At one stage they had offered a compromise where I could wear the wristband under the stands at Croke Park, on the fringes of the pitch or in the dressing rooms but would have to take it off when I crossed the white line onto the pitch for the match.

"I would not have done that. It would have made it look as if I had something to hide. They have over-analysed and over-politicised a very simple gesture," he said.

"I have no option but to accept the decision."

The GAA said that once the referendum on same-sex civil marriage had been called then the issue "became political".

"It's a black and white issue. The association is apolitical. Any member is allowed to have their own political views or opinions outside but Croke Park is not the place to make political gestures. We have been very consistent on this issue," the association said in a statement to the Sunday Independent.

"Once the referendum was called on same-sex civil marriage it became a political issue going before the people in a vote. We, of course, are vehemently opposed to homophobia in any form and have actively supported diversity in our games," he said.

However, the GAA could not offer Croke Park as a platform for any political views, he said.

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