Northern Ireland news

Peter Canavan and Oisin McConville sign Palestine petition amid flag controversy

Palestinian campaigner John Hurson pictured with a petition signed by several high profile GAA members
Connla Young

AROUND 1,200 Ulster GAA members have signed a petition in support of the people of Palestine amid controversy over attempts to stop flags being flown at grounds.

All-Ireland winners Peter Canavan and Oisin McConville are among dozens of current and former county players to have added their names to the initiative by a group called 'Concerned Gaels'.

It is expected that a copy of the petition, which calls for support for the Palestinian people and their demands for human rights, will be handed to the Ulster Council in Armagh today.

Organisers say county players to have signed it include Armagh’s Brendan Donaghy and Gavin McParland and Tyrone’s Padraig McNulty, with former players including Tyrone’s Paudge Quinn.

It is understood it has also received the backing of Tyrone manager Mickey Harte.

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

The council has said the only flags allowed in grounds are the official GAA flag, national flag and team colours.

Earlier this month, a match between Tyrone and Meath in Navan - not under the auspices of Ulster GAA - saw a Tyrone fan holding a Palestinian flag arrested by gardaí following an exchange with officers. The Dungannon man was later given an adult caution and released.

A prominent Palestinian campaigner, John Hurson, also revealed that he was told he would no longer needed as Tyrone’s match day social media officer on the morning of the Meath game.

An honorary Palestinian citizen, he had voiced his criticism of the attempt to remove flags at Healy Park and believes the decision to drop him was linked to his comments.

Mr Hurson is known throughout Ireland for his work with the ‘Tyrone to Gaza’ group and managed the official Tyrone social media feeds voluntarily since 2011.

The petition states: “We, the undersigned members of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael, abhor the ongoing genocide in Palestine and call on all right thinking people to continue to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and support their demands for basic human rights.

“We also call on Comhairle Uladh CLG to guarantee that the appalling scenes in Páirc Tailteann, Navan, are never repeated at any GAA ground in the province of Ulster."

Organisers say the petition received more than 1,200 signatures in a week after every club in Ulster was contacted by email.

It is understood copies have also been distributed at both club and county training sessions across the province.

A spokeswoman for Concerned Gaels said the incident in Navan was “the final straw”.

“It seems to be Ulster who are driving this,” she said.

“Officials from the Ulster Council need to fully explain the thinking behind this.”

The Ulster Council did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

The petition organisers have set up a Facebook page and website for anyone who wants to add their names.

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