Northern Ireland

GAA club ‘shocked’ after being targeted by armed and masked men issuing threats about drug dealing

Gang claimed they were from the ‘IRA’

Armed and masked men entered a bar linked to St Canice's GAA club in Dungiven on Friday
Armed and masked men entered a bar linked to St Canice's GAA club in Dungiven on Friday

An underage presentation was taking place at a GAA-run social club in Co Derry when armed and masked men entered the premises at the weekend.

A bar at St Canice’s GAA club in Dungiven was one of four licensed premises visited by the gang of three men in the village around 7.30pm on Friday.

The presentation event, involving around 100 children and teenagers from the club’s under 11.5 - 17.5 teams, and their parents, was taking place in an upstairs function room when the gang entered a downstairs bar.

It is believed that one of the masked men was carrying a handgun, while the others carried an iron bar and sledgehammer.

While the PSNI initially said it had received reports that two premises had been visited, it has now emerged the men entered four different bars around the village over a short period of time on Friday evening.

The group claimed it was from the ‘IRA’ and issued a warning against drug dealing in each bar.

There is no suggestion that anyone associated with any of the licensed premises were the targets of the warnings.

In a statement St Canice’s GAC Executive said it is “extremely angry and shocked at masked men entering our premises and issuing threats against our community”.

“The fact that these masked men entered our premises while we had over 100 children and their parents attending an underage presentation makes it even more despicable,” the statement said.

“The club said it takes an anti-drugs stance.

“Our club stands united against any form of drug taking or criminality in our community,” it said.

“The fact that these men entered our premises implies that this type of activity takes place here or that we have an issue in or on the premises.

“We as a club executive would like to state categorially that we would not tolerate such activities, and to our knowledge no such activities take place in or on our premises.”

The GAA club highlighted its efforts to combat drugs in the impact of drugs in the community.

“On the contrary we are leaders in our community in highlighting the impact of addiction on people, their families, and the community,” the statement said.

“We run workshops and are partnered with Alps in helping people with addictions and mental health issues.

“We’re involved in cross community projects, and we pride ourselves on our place as leaders in the community as an example to young and old, in coaching teamwork and life skills, to help others in our community, and the importance of charitable work for those less fortunate.”

The statement added that the club will continue to help those in the community who need it.

“This type of threat by masked men entering our premises is deplorable and of days gone by,” the club said.

“There is no need for this type of behaviour in a society that’s looking to move beyond what happened in our past.

“We urge the people of our community to stand together against all types of criminality and we as a club will continue our efforts to support those in need within our community.”

Sinn Féin councillor Sean McGlinchey said young people should be spoken to directly about drug issues.

“Dungiven is not different from any other community where there is a drug issue, but it’s not a major issue,” he said.

“We have to deal with by talking to young people and helping them by giving them advice.

“Going into bars nowadays, when people are out there on a Friday evening, having a drink, with weapons – it’s not the way forward,” he said.

“We have to do it the other way, through the community groups, voluntary workers, that’s the way we are going to solve these things.”

Police arrested a 58-year-old man in the Dungiven area on Sunday morning under the Terrorism Act.

He is being questioned at Musgrave Street PSNI station in Belfast and remains in custody.

A spokesman for the PSNI said: “We wholly condemn what happened in Dungiven on Friday when armed and masked men, claiming to represent the IRA, entered a number of local bars.

“I want to reassure the community that we are treating these incidents extremely seriously and we are actively pursuing the perpetrators.”

Last year in the village a sign was put up claiming to identify three people in the PSNI.

It later emerged one of those named had left the PSNI and another had no connections with the force.