Northern Ireland

`Anti British GAA' banner removed from north Belfast council park

One Twitter user posted a picture of the poster on Sunday morning
One Twitter user posted a picture of the poster on Sunday morning

A "sectarian" banner describing the GAA as "anti-British" and proclaiming it is "not welcome" in a Belfast public park has been removed by the council.

The message `Anti British GAA Not Welcome' was painted in crude red spray paint on a white banner and hung on railings at the Jellicoe Avenue entrance of Grove Park in north Belfast.

Graffiti with the same message has also been sprayed on a changing block.

The open area, which includes playing fields, a dog park and a playground, stretches from there to the Shore Road and Skegoniell Avenue to Alexandra Park Avenue and is enclosed within a largely Protestant area of the city, with an Orange Hall a few feet away.

However, there are Catholic homes nearby and the park and is used by all sides of the community.

It is just 0.3 miles from Alexandra Park which is the only park in western Europe with a three-metre high `peace wall' running through the middle.

During lockdown the wide open space had been a focus of many people's `one form of exercise a day' with families taking children and playing games and older teenagers and adults doing sporting drills while unable to take part in in team practices and games.

The council had removed soccer posts at the beginning of lockdown to dissuade people from congregating in teams.

One Twitter user posted a picture of the poster yesterday morning saying "A not so nice welcome at @belfastcc Grove Playing Fields this morning. Unreal how parents kicking a ball about with their children can upset people."

Sinn Féin MP and former lord mayor John Finucane described it as "open intimidation".

"Sectarianism must always be challenged. There is no place in society for sectarianism or racism.

"This open intimidation was displayed on (Belfast City Council) playing pitches that belong to us all. Without exception we all must call these acts out and stand strong against this intimidation."

SDLP deputy mayor Paul McCusker confirmed it had been taken down, claiming GAA "is a sport for all".

"Glad to hear that this sign at Grove playing fields has been removed by BCC.

"There is no room in society for hate and the GAA is a sport that is embraced by all communities and is a sport for all. The small minority behind this don't speak for anyone."

Alliance councillor Nuala McAllister said the banner "sets your community back".

"(I) was talking to friends last week about how Grove park is underrated and is great for a run around. Then we see this today.

"Green spaces bring our area together, to be enjoyed by all. This nonsense is ridiculous and sets your community back. Thanks to council staff for removing it."