GAA club chairman quits over plans to remove IRA men gates

The gates of the Glenariffe Oisin GAA club in Co Antrim. Picture by Ann McManus 
The gates of the Glenariffe Oisin GAA club in Co Antrim. Picture by Ann McManus 

THE chairman of a Co Antrim GAA club has resigned after it voted to remove entrance gates dedicated to the memory of two IRA men in order to secure £180,000 funding from a majority unionist council.

Eddie Haughey stepped down after members of Oisín Glenariffe hurling club took the decision in a secret ballot at a special meeting last week

The Glens of Antrim club hopes to secure £180,000 from Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council to help build a new £1m shared community centre on its land.

The controversial issue is expected to be discussed when the council meets in Coleraine on Tuesday night.

The funding proposal was originally passed at a council committee meeting earlier this year, however, when the matter was brought to full council the DUP voiced concerns.

It is understood the council has sought legal opinion on whether to fund the new Glenariffe centre and whether to approve guidelines for a capital grants fund after a ‘call-in’ was triggered.

Under council rules parties can seek a call-in - in which a decision is reconsidered if 15 per cent of councillors believe it was not properly reached or would have an adverse effect on a section of the community.

The club’s grounds are named after two IRA men, Charlie McAllister and Pat McVeigh, who were killed during a gun battle with B-Specials near in Glenariffe in May 1922 - months after the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed.

A third man escaped.

The clubs grounds were named after the republicans after the land was bought in 1947 with the help of the local Feis committee and the GAA.

After last week’s vote two large gates bearing the IRA men’s names which stand at the entrance to McAllister-McVeigh Memorial Park will now be removed to the entrance to the hurling field.

It is believed the move has caused bitter division within the club and has prompted one independent councillor to boycott tonight’s council meeting.

In addition to Mr Haughey stepping down, it is understood the managers of two of the club’s teams have also resigned.

Club members were invited to a special meeting at a local primary school last week where the vote was held.

In a letter chairman Eddie Haughey said: “FOG (Friends of Glenariffe) have requested permission from the hurling club to remove the club gates from the entrance in order to advance their funding application”.

Members were given an option to retain the gates at the entrance or relocate them to “the hurling field entrance”.

Ballycastle based councillor Padraig McShane, who has represented his county on the hurling field at minor and under-21 level, accused the council of "intransigence"

“The club members should not have been put in that position,” he said.

“They were put in this position because of the unrelenting anti-Irish sentiment of Causeway Coast and Glens council.

“As an elected member I will not support the dictating of terms by intransigent unionism at the council and therefore will not be making myself unavailable for the meeting in question.”

Mr McShane urged the GAA community in the Glens to stay unified.

“I wish Glenarriffe and all the fellow Gaels the very best,” he said.

“A unity of purpose will see us rise a monument fitting to the two volunteers.”