Northern Ireland news

Ulster GAA confirms Palestinian flag not allowed in grounds

It is claimed Ulster Council officials attempted to remove Palestinian flags during Sunday's Tyrone v Monaghan senior championship clash
Connla Young and Seamus McKinney

THE GAA's Ulster Council has confirmed that the Palestinian flag is not allowed in its grounds.

Confirmation came after it was claimed an official ordered the removal of two flags from spectators at the Tyrone v Monaghan senior championship match in Omagh on Sunday.

Dozens of Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip last week.

Palestinian campaigner John Hurson said he challenged an Ulster Council official who told security staff to remove the flags.

Known for his work with the ‘Tyrone to Gaza' group, Mr Hurson also manages the official Tyrone Twitter feed during games involving the county.

He said he was tweeting from a control room at Healy Park when concern about the flags was raised by an official.

A second official was then said to have ordered their removal.

Mr Hurson said he left the control room and made his way to one of the supporters holding a flag.

He said he remained at the man's side for the duration of the game and spoke to security staff who eventually left the area.

It is understood neither flag was removed.

Mr Hurson said: “Overall I thought it was very petty, especially six days after 3,000 people were injured and 62 killed and considering there were considerable shows of solidarity throughout Ireland and across the world.

“What happens next week if there's 20 flags at a game?”

A spokesman for the Ulster Council last night said: “There is no flag allowed other than the official (GAA) flag, national flag and team colours.

“The display and possession of flag poles is contrary to ground regulations.”

In 2009 Mr Hurson brought more than 1,000 GAA jerseys to Palestine as part of an aid convoy.

In the past he has received high-profile support from GAA figures including former Tyrone All-Ireland winner Peter Canavan.

It is not the first time there has been controversy at a GAA match over shows of support for Palestine.

In 2014 a banner which included the words "we stand with Gaza" was removed after authorities stepped in during a game at Croke Park between Armagh and Meath.

Meanwhile, civic buildings in Derry are to be lit up in the black, white, green and red colours of the Palestinian flag in solidarity with those killed in Gaza last week.

DUP members of Derry City and Strabane District Council stayed away from a special meeting of the authority called yesterday to ratify the move.

The proposal to light up council buildings over a 48-hour period was proposed by Sinn Féin's Sandra Duffy and seconded by SDLP councillor Martin Reilly.

It was carried by 22 votes to one, with independent unionist Maurice Devenney opposing.

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