Northern Ireland news

Co Tyrone Palestine campaigner dropped by GAA board

Tyrone GAA legend Peter Canavan pictured with Palestine campaigner John Hurson
Connla Young

Prominent Palestinian campaigner John Hurson has been dropped as Tyrone's match day social media officer weeks after a row over the flying of a Palestinian flag.

Mr Hurson last night said he was told he would not be needed to cover Tyrone’s All-Ireland qualifier game against Meath in Navan last Saturday.

Known for his work with the ‘Tyrone to Gaza' group, Mr Hurson also managed the official Tyrone social media feeds during games involving the county.

He says he took on the role in 2011 and was responsible for providing live updates on all Tyrone senior football games on Twitter and Facebook since then.

Mr Hurson last night said he did the job voluntarily and never claimed any expenses.

Details of the move emerged as a Tyrone supporter who was holding a Palestinian flag was arrested before the game in Navan.

Last month Mr Hurson, who is an honorary Palestinian citizen, was critical of a decision by an Ulster Council official to order the removal of two Palestinian flags during an Ulster championship match featuring Tyrone and Monaghan in Omagh.

Saturday’s game was the first major game featuring Tyrone since Mr Hurson spoke out.

He said he was told by text by a senior county board official on Saturday morning that he was no longer required.

He believes the two issues are linked.

“Absolutely, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.

The Dungannon man says he is very disappointed by the development.

“I am gutted to be dropped in such a manner,” he said.

Mr Hurson said he has been off work for several months.

“I have been off work for six months on work related stress and this was the thing I was looking forward to every week,” he said.

The Tyrone county board could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, it has been claimed the Tyrone fan arrested at the county’s game at Meath at the weekend has a physical disability and recently suffered a brain haemorrhage.

The man was arrested after being told by Gardai to stop flying a Palestinian flag.

It is believed there was an exchange of words between the man and officers before he was handcuffed.

Video footage of the incident appears to show the man, who is waiting on a hip replacement and uses crutches, being partly dragged from the area.

It has been claimed and video footage appears to show that the incident took place before the start of the match.

A spokesman for Gardai said officers attending Saturday’s Tyrone match “received a number of complaints from attendees that their view was obscured by a flag”.

They say a man was spoken to but refused to lower the flag and became abusive and was then arrested.

He was then taken to Navan Garda station and given an adult caution before being released.

Mr Hurson also claims that Gradai also seized a Palestinian flag from a second man.

Gardai last night said they “don’t comment on named individuals, organisations or third party comment” while a spokesman for the Meath County Board said it did not ask Gardai to remove any flag.

Gardai also failed to respond when asked if flying a Palestinian flag or being in possession of one is an offence.

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