Leading article

No justification for DUP attack on GAA

When elected representatives and other commentators offer their views on sporting bodies in a divided society, it is reasonable to expect that their contributions should be measured and kept in a proper context.

Unfortunately, as we reported on Saturday, there was little sign of such considerations when DUP members of Mid Ulster District Council tabled a motion urging that public funding should be withdrawn from the GAA pending an investigation into events after the Tyrone senior football final the previous Sunday.

There can be no doubt that a group of spectators should not have celebrated the success of Dungannon Clarke's GAC by running on to the pitch in breach of public health restrictions, and there could also be no justification for the unacceptable behaviour of some individuals in bars outside the control of the GAA later that night.

However, it is essential that all the wider circumstances surrounding the game at Healy Park in Omagh when Dungannnon won its first senior football championship in 64 years, and the overall role of the GAA during the pandemic, should be taken into consideration.

It was inevitable that there would be scenes of jubilation when the title was decided after extra time and penalties at a venue with a capacity of 20,000 where covid restrictions meant that only 200 Dungannon fans could be admitted.

A subsequent statement from the GAA's Ulster Council said unequivocally that rules had been broken and urged everyone to respect the protocols which it had put in place.

As our columnist, Cahair O'Kane, noted on Tuesday, the role of GAA clubs in organising food banks for the benefit of people in all sections of the community during the lockdown was hugely commendable.

The vast majority of GAA members have also impeccably observed all the regulations during hundreds of matches compressed into a truncated championship season across the north over recent weeks.

None of this apparently mattered to the DUP councillors who attempted to insist that draconian punishments should be imposed on the GAA over incidents after a single game.

Their proposal was roundly defeated, but, before they set out on a course of action which inevitably polarised opinions, they should surely have assessed the GAA's overall approach to the coronavirus guidelines and possibly compared it to that of their party colleague and MP Sammy Wilson.

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