Further sectarian anti-GAA incidents emerge at north Belfast park

Posted By: June 24, 2020

Brendan Hughes. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, June 24, 2020

A MAN made sectarian comments and took pictures of children playing hurling in a north Belfast park in an incident being probed by police.

Separately, a father has also told how he was doing GAA training with his teenage daughter when they were approached and told to leave.

They are the latest in a series incidents to emerge at Grove playing fields after an anti-GAA banner and graffiti appeared at the park earlier this month.

In the following days soccer players who were wearing Celtic and GAA tops while training were intimidated out by a group of men gathered at the pitches.

There have been calls for calm and Belfast’s lord mayor, the DUP’s Frank McCoubrey, has said parks are for everyone and “sectarianism has no place in our city”.

The anti-GAA banner and graffiti were reported at the park on Sunday June 14.

It has emerged that on the same day, an incident occurred in which a man made sectarian comments.

A police inspector said: “Shortly after 11.40am, it was reported to police that a male and his children were playing in the area when they were approached by an unknown man.

“It was reported the man took pictures of the children and made a number of remarks to the male before leaving in the direction of Alexandra Park Avenue.

“This male was described as being aged in his forties, bald and wore a light green-coloured top and shorts.

“Enquiries are continuing into this matter, which was reported as a hate incident.”

Police said they understood the children were playing hurling when the unknown man took pictures and made sectarian remarks.

They appealed for anyone with any information to phone 101, quoting reference number 846 14/06/20, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

A father has also told The Irish News that on the same morning at about 11.30am, he had gone to Grove with his 15-year-old daughter for some GAA training.

The 54-year-old, who did not wish to be named, said his daughter was wearing shorts from St Enda’s GAA club in Glengormley.

He said two men and a woman walked towards them, and one of the men – who had dark hair and was wearing a Northern Ireland top – said to him, “If you’re going to be playing GAA you better go to another park.”

Unaware of the banner, the pair continued some light training. The father said he later spotted two police officers and told them what had happened.

The north Belfast man said: “I didn’t know of anything else that had happened up to that point when he made this remark. I thought, ‘What does he mean by that?’

“I’m now convinced this was a warning. It was, ‘Your sort aren’t welcome here.'”

Meanwhile, police are continuing to appeal for information following a sectarian attack in the Westland Drive area on Saturday evening.

It was reported that a male had been assaulted by a group of up to 10 young people and subjected to sectarian abuse.

A fence panel of a property was also damaged and doors to other properties kicked.

The group fled in the direction of the Cavehill and Cliftonville roads.

Police said that in recent weeks they have responded to a “range of criminal, anti-social and sectarian incidents at locations across north Belfast”.

“Some young people are congregating in public areas and are becoming involved in anti-social behaviour, drinking, abusing other substances, fighting and incidents of criminal damage,” they said.

Police urged parents to know the whereabouts of their children.