Northern Ireland news

Former GAA boss John O'Reilly dies after alleged hospital assault

John O'Reilly, a former chairman of the Ulster Council, died on Tuesday, a week after being assaulted 
Marie Louise McConville

A POLICE investigation is underway after a former chairman of the GAA's Ulster Council died following an assault in a hospital care ward.

John O'Reilly (83) was attacked while an in-patient at the Gillis Memory Centre in Armagh.

Well-known and respected in GAA circles, it is alleged he was assaulted by another male patient in the 24-bed ward for people with dementia.

The father-of-seven, a former player and chairman of Crossmaglen Rangers, was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where he passed away on Tuesday.

Based in the Mullinure Health and Wellbeing Centre at St Luke's Hospital on the Loughgall Road in Armagh, the Gillis Memory Centre caters for both men and women.

John O'Reilly, a former chairman of the Ulster Council, died on Tuesday, a week after being assaulted. Mr O'Reilly is pictured with delegates of the Ulster Convention, who met former Lord Mayor of Belfast. Pictured (l-r) are Joe O'Boyle, Danny Murphy, John O'Reilly and Aogan Farrell. Picture by John F Kelly

Police yesterday confirmed they had received a report of "an assault on a male, aged in his eighties, at the Gillis Unit in Armagh" on December 4.

It is understood a file in relation to the incident involving a male pensioner is being prepared for the Public Prosecution Service.

A spokeswoman for the Southern Health Trust yesterday said: "We can confirm that there was a recent incident involving a patient in the Gillis Unit, Armagh. We are co-operating fully with the police investigation into this matter."

Mr O'Reilly played his first game for Crossmaglen Rangers in 1952 and won the senior championship in 1960 and 1962.

Having quit football in the early sixties, Mr O'Reilly served two terms as Chairman of Crossmaglen Rangers between 1963 and 1971.

John O'Reilly, who was chairman of the Ulster Council from 2001-2004, presents Armagh Harps captain Joe Quigley with the Dale Farm Ulster Minor Club Championship Trophy. Photo by Seamus Loughran

He later held the position of chairman of Armagh League Board for five consecutive years before he was elected chairman of the County Board, serving in that position until 1981. He served as Chairman of the Ulster Council from 2001 to 2004.

Michael Hasson, President of Ulster GAA, said Mr O'Reilly was president "at a time when Ulster was leading the way on the GAA football fields".

"He was County Chairman when his native Armagh reached the All-Ireland Final in 1977 but as Ulster President, he had the honour of witnessing them winning the Sam Maguire Cup for the first time, in 2002," he said.

"The following year he had the distinction of seeing two Ulster counties in the All-Ireland Final – something that never happened before and hasn’t happened since – when Tyrone won their inaugural title".

Colm Mc Larnon, Kickhams Creggan Co.Antrim, receives the first certificate in Code of Best Practice for Youth Sport,over 6,000 certificates will be distributed to Adminsitrators and Coaches who completed the "Child Protection Awareness Workshop" throughout the Province,also included are Michael Hasson ( members of the Ulster Council Commitee that organised the "Child Protection Awareness Workshop" throughout the Province ) and John O'Reilly ( Past President Ulster Council ).Photo by John McAviney.

In a statement, Armagh GAA said: "John was a fine player and a respected administrator within the GAA. He served as a committee member at every level in the organisation from club to national level. John was former County Chairman and Honorary President of Armagh County Board and also former President of Ulster Council of the GAA. May he rest in eternal peace".

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