Palestinian flags on display during Ulster Final as GAA appears to soften its stance

Gregory Phair, a Fermanagh fan from Newtownbutler, displaying his Palestinian flag ahead of the game in Clones
John Monaghan

PALESTINIAN flags were on show across St Tiernach's Park in Clones yesterday as the GAA appeared to soften its stance towards their display.

In recent weeks, GAA stewards have attempted to confiscate the flags brought to grounds by fans wishing to show solidarity with the Palestinians and angered by the Israeli shooting of protesters in the Gaza Strip during demonstrations last month.

Ulster Council officials ordered the removal of two Palestinian flags during a championship game at Healy Park in Omagh in May, although it is believed an attempt to remove them was unsuccessful.

A Tyrone fan, who was holding a Palestinian flag, was arrested during an All-Ireland qualifier game against Meath in Navan some weeks later. He was later given an adult caution and released.

Last week All Ireland winners Peter Canavan and Oisin McConville, as well as current Tyrone manager Mickey Harte, were among hundreds of GAA members across Ulster to sign a petition handed over to the Ulster Council showing their support for the Palestinians.

It came as John Hurson was dropped from his role as voluntary match day social media officer by the Tyrone County Board after he criticised the attempt to remove the flags in Omagh.

However in a statement issued last week the Ulster Council denied it had banned Palestinian flags from its grounds and said it had no policy "per se" on national flags.

Yesterday the GAA appeared to take a step back during the Ulster Final and while flags were carried in by fans no attempts were made to confiscate them.

Behind one of the goals, there was a large concentration of flags, with others were also on display in other parts of the ground.

Several fans who had congregated in the centre of Clones ahead of the game proudly flew the flags and said they would resist any attempt to confiscate them.

Gregory Phair, from Newtownbutler in Co Fermanagh, was draped in a Palestinian flag as he soaked up the pre-match atmosphere with his wife Claire.

“Any time I go I fly it proudly. I believe the GAA – who supported 1916 – should support the Palestinian people in similar circumstances. It is an occupation.

“If they (stewards) try to take the flag off me there will be a struggle here, never mind in Palestine. I will fly it as high as the Fermanagh flag. You have to do the right thing at the end of the day.”

At the end of the game, a pitch invasion by supporters saw several Palestinian flags waved as Donegal celebrated victory, again without any apparent action from the GAA authorities.

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