DUP MLA Tom Buchanan has been accused of “trying to stir up controversy for the sake of it” after he called for the removal of a GAA club plaque from a new wall leading to Beragh Red Knights grounds.
The plaque inscribed in Irish reads ‘Fáilte go Pairc Naomh Mhuire’ (’Welcome to St Mary’s Park’) with the club crest. It was mounted on the wall at the entrance to the grounds, however Mr Buchanan has asked Roads Service to remove it claiming the plaque is an ‘outrageous insult’ to the unionist community. The DUP MLA claimed the plaque is on the bridge ‘range wall’ however the DRD confirmed it is not part of the the bridge range wall.
A spokesman for Beragh GAA said the plaque was on their property, adding, “We are not interested in being involved in a slagging match.”
A spokesperson from DRD Roads Service confirmed the installation of the plaque was by ‘private arrangement’ between the local GAA club and the contractor.
The spokesperson said, “The wall was constructed as compensation in lieu of land acquired from the club that was needed for the bridge widening. On completion it will be the private property of the club. It is not part of the bridge range wall. Its inclusion did not incur any expense to the public purse.”
Cllr Buchanan has been highly critical of the GAA on a number of previous occasions.
In 2008 he rebuked the Association because flags were still flying two weeks after Tyrone’s All Ireland win and he also slammed a local bank sponsoring the Gaelic championship for hanging bunting in their establishment to celebrate a Tyrone success. On another occasion he accused the GAA of postponing football matches in order to accommodate a hunger strike commemoration.
In a statement Mr Buchanan claimed that the Beragh plaque has “caused much outrage and anger amongst the unionist community in the area.”
He said, “This is nothing short of an insult to the unionist community who over the years has suffered at the hands of republicanism, many of whom the GAA have named their sports grounds after. This action also raises serious questions as to why Roads Service, without any consultation, permitted such a plaque to be placed in the wall and who sanctioned it. This should be neutral ground with no tags from any organisation.”
The DUP representative added that he has been in contact with Roads Service personnel and with the ‘Minister’s office’ demanding that “immediate action be taken to remove the outrageous insult.”
He claimed it is “not only adding to the hurt of the unionist community but is the cause of much provocation in the area.”
However, West Tyrone Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff described Mr Buchanan’s remarks as ‘disappointing and born out of ignorance.’
“The Irish language is the common heritage of everyone and of interest to Protestants, not least Presbyterians.
“I am surprised Tom is directing these comments at Beragh Red Knights, a club that is wholly inclusive and generous in its community outreach. It doesn’t deserve this type of controversy being stirred up for the sake of controversy.”