Northern Ireland

Bellaghy GAA club dismisses Saoradh hunger strike commemoration claims

Saoradh claimed it was holding a hunger strike commemoration at Bellaghy GAA club
Saoradh claimed it was holding a hunger strike commemoration at Bellaghy GAA club Saoradh claimed it was holding a hunger strike commemoration at Bellaghy GAA club

A south Derry GAA club has dismissed claims that a dissident republican-linked political party is holding an event at its premises.

In a statement last night, Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC said it had "not granted permission" for a 'National Hunger Strike Commemoration' organised by Saoradh.

Saoradh is considered by the PSNI as being linked to the New IRA

Journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead by a New IRA gunman while observing a riot in Derry on April 18, 2019.

Journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead by a New IRA gunman while observing a riot in Derry on April 18 2019. Picture from Press Association
Journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead by a New IRA gunman while observing a riot in Derry on April 18 2019. Picture from Press Association Journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead by a New IRA gunman while observing a riot in Derry on April 18 2019. Picture from Press Association

In a Facebook posting, Saoradh said the event was to be held at Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC on Saturday, October 2, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the ending of the 1981 hunger strike.

The hunger strike was officially called off on October 3 1981.

Saoradh has the support of New IRA prisoners in Maghaberry and Portlaoise prisons.

The New IRA is considered to be the largest dissident republican group and has been behind several attempted attacks on police officers.

The GAA club has been targeted by loyalists in the past.

Club chairman Sean Brown was abducted by an LVF gang as he locked the gates of the club in May 1997 and later murdered.

Two of the 10 men who died on the 1981 hunger strike - Francis Hughes and his cousin Thomas McElwee - were from Bellaghy.

Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC said it had been made aware of the social media ad.

"The club would like to clarify that no request was received from or on behalf of any organisation and the club had not granted permission for the use of our premises for any event entitled 'Saoradh National Hunger Strike Commemoration.'

"We further wish to clarify that no event other than those relating to official GAA activity or training will be taking place at club premises at that date.

"Bellaghy Wolfe Tones is a community based organisation that exists to promote Gaelic games and culture in line with the aims and objectives of the GAA."

It its Facebook post, Saoradh said it was announcing the "National Hunger Strike Commemoration in the County Derry village of Bellaghy."

And it added: "(It) will take place on Saturday October 2nd 2021 at 2pm to honour and pay our respects on the 40th anniversary of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the ongoing fight for Irish freedom.

"Saoradh’s view of honouring those who gave their lives for Ireland remains steadfast.

"We call on the Republican family to join us and honour the Hunger Strikers.

"Join Saoradh at 2pm on Saturday October 2nd at the Wolfe Tone GAA Club, Bellaghy."