Northern Ireland news

Anti-abortion group defends Mickey Harte after his call for 'No' vote

Mickey Harte speaking in a pro-life video at Cootehill Celtic's ground in Co Cavan last month
Connla Young

AN anti-abortion group has defended Tyrone senior football manager Mickey Harte after he urged a 'No' vote in next month’s referendum.

Mr Harte came in for criticism in some quarters after he attended an event in Dublin last weekend to launch the ‘GAA Athletes for a No Vote’ campaign.

Several high-profile players from Ulster, including Derry camogie star Aoife Cassidy and Antrim senior footballer Patrick Gallagher, were also at the launch at a sports centre in Ballyfermot.

That event was supported by campaign group Save the 8th, which argues against repealing the eighth amendment of the Irish constitution.

Ballyfermot GAA club later released a statement saying the launch did not take place on its facilities and the GAA at Croke Park has since written to its 32 county secretaries instructing that the association should have no involvement in the referendum.

It has since emerged that Mr Harte also made a pro-life video in March which was recorded at the grounds of Cootehill Celtic GAA club in Co Cavan for a separate campaign group, LoveBoth.

The film shows Mr Harte sitting in the stands of the club calling for a ‘No’ vote.

The club later issued a statement calling for the video to be removed from circulation and made a complaint to the Tyrone County Board.

However, a spokesman for Save the 8th last night defended Mr Harte and players involved in campaigning.

"In 2015, the Gaelic Players Association came out, en masse, for a ‘Yes’ vote in the marriage referendum. The GAA said nothing.

"Last week, a number of players came out for a ‘No’ vote in the abortion referendum, and the GAA is suddenly concerned.

“It is unclear what has changed from 2015 to now."

The spokesman said the players "have never claimed to represent anyone but themselves, and we believe that they have an absolute right to do so, whatever side they choose to support".

A spokesman for the GAA in Dublin said it has "not had any correspondence or contact" about the Cootehill video.

“As with all issues, if they are brought to our attention we will review it.”

Tyrone County Board declined to comment when contacted.

Cootehill Celtic referred The Irish News to its previous statement.

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