Peadar Heffron tells how he was 'shunned' by GAA when he joined PSNI
A CATHOLIC police officer left in a wheelchair following a dissident republican car bomb attack has claimed he was ostracised by his GAA club after joining the PSNI.
Peadar Heffron suffered devastating injuries in January 2010 when a booby trap device detonated under his vehicle a half-mile from his house in Randalstown, Co Antrim while on his way to work at Grosvenor Road station in Belfast.
Due to the severity of the injuries his right leg had to be amputated and lower body injuries mean he uses both a urostomy and colostomy bags as part of his daily routine.
No one has ever been convicted of the attack which was claimed by Oglaigh na hEireann.
A former hurler and Gaelic footballer with Creggan Kickhams GAC in Randalstown, the respected full-back helped the club to the Antrim Intermediate Championship title on two occasions.
Speaking for the first time since the attack in an interview with the Sunday Independent he told GAA pundit and columnist Joe Brolly how his beloved club turned their back on him as he announced plans to join the newly-formed PSNI in 2002.
He also claimed that in the wake of the brutal attack, which saw him spend 10 months in hospital, they never offered an olive branch.
"I am a very bitter man," he said.
"After the bomb, not even a letter from the club. Two of the committee visited my parents' house when I was in a coma.
"My father Frank played for Creggan, was the club referee and the treasurer. They said to him when they arrived, 'we are not here on behalf of the club, only in a personal capacity'."
He recounted how when he told club-mates of his plans to join the PSNI boyhood friends never spoke to him again and he was not picked for any teams by the management.
A short time later he recalled how posters went up in the parish warning young people against joining the PSNI.
When he confronted club members about his exclusion he described how one club official said he was putting them in a 'very awkward position' .
The final straw came, he claimed, when in April 2002 four republicans came into the club changing room after his team accepted a challenge to play a Tyrone club and personally handed him a leaflet warning against the dangers of joining the PSNI.
"I got into my car, drove home and never came back," he said. "It had gotten too personal. Too serious. It was an awful wrench. I never recovered."
Despite the setback he said he was determined to push on with his plans and the following month joined the PSNI.
He was instrumental in the creation of the force's Gaelic football team, who in 2006 would play their first club match against Joe Brolly's St Brigid's club.
The fluent Irish speaker says he joined the PSNI to make a difference and create a united Ireland, but now his life had been irrevocably changed.
"I thought if policing here was normalised, we could in due course join with the Gardai and then further down the line who knows..."
"When I joined we were promised peace. A new beginning.
"I thought I'd remain part of my community, a community I loved. I thought I'd play football for Creggan and drink pints in O'Boyle's. That we'd have children and I'd take the underage teams. Now I'm in a wheelchair. I live in north Down.
It wasn't supposed to happen. It wasn't supposed to happen. It's a life. But it's not my life," he added.
When contacted by the Irish News Creggan Kickhams declined to comment.