Councillor Ruth Patterson issues statement about Crumlin Star 'links to a republican'
A north Belfast football club has said it is seeking legal advice after an independent unionist councillor linked it to a senior republican.
Ruth Patterson was cut short by Belfast Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister while speaking during a council debate on Monday about Crumlin Star FC.
The Ardoyne-based club, which does not have a home ground, wants to use playing fields at Strangford Avenue in south Belfast.
The former DUP councillor said she was against the move, but a claim that the club had a member who is a senior republican caused other councillors to rise to their feet.
The SDLP's Paul McCusker described her comments as "unacceptable" and "absolutely outrageous".
A spokesman for Crumlin Star FC told The Irish News last night that it has been in contact with a solicitor.
"We are a community club, and at the heart of that is providing a positive sporting outlet for young people from this area," he said.
"We steer clear of politics as it has no place in sport.
"Ms Patterson's outrageous comments have placed at risk our players, supporters and the many volunteers who give up their free time to work with the club.
"Just like other football clubs, we travel in and out of mixed areas or areas that would be perceived to be unionist every other week. Likewise other clubs travel from various areas to play against us. For a political representative to try and jeopardise those valuable community relationships is quite shocking.
"We would like to thank the political representatives from a range of parties who condemned the comments on the night and all those from who have contacted us since to offer support."
While comments made in the council chamber are covered by legal privilege, Mrs Patterson repeated her allegations in a statement released after the meeting.
"There has been much hypocrisy from Sinn Féin and those that provide them with covering fire in the chamber," she said.
"I did not make allegations against Crumlin Star, who are a successful and popular club."
However, she repeated what she claimed was a "factual link" with a republican.
"Perhaps now Sinn Féin and their SDLP and Alliance allies will think twice about demonising loyalists. They cannot have it both ways; loyalists cannot be fair game whilst republicans are a protected species.
"I hope in the future that debates on all community organisations, sports clubs, bands and bonfire groups can be free from any political point scoring."