Politicians condemn yet another security alert at Belfast sports ground used by GAA club

Politicians condemn yet another security alert at Belfast sports ground used by GAA club

LOCAL politicians have condemned another security alert at a Belfast sports ground used by a GAA club.

At lunchtime on Sunday, the PSNI confirmed it was at the scene of a security alert at playing fields in the Church Road area of Castlereagh.

"The playing fields have been closed while searches are carried out," added a police statement.

"Road users are being asked to avoid the area at this time.”

It is understood the searches are taking place at the Henry Jones Playing Fields on Church Road, which are used by East Belfast GAA and have been targeted numerous times in the past.

'Absolutely appalled'

Peter McReynolds, Alliance MLA for East Belfast, said today's incident at the council-owned site was the latest in 'a never-ending slew of threats and security alerts' targeting the GAA club.

"I'm absolutely appalled at those behind this alert, they have no regard for anyone in the community, nor do they represent the people of East Belfast," he said,

"East Belfast GAA has garnered immense praise from our community, and rightly so.

"Their efforts to unite people through sports, fostering a better future in East Belfast, so everyone can live, work and play together in peace, is something to be celebrated and promoted.

"Yet the club has received a never-ending slew of threats and security alerts.

"Those behind security alerts like this are not interested in anything positive; instead, they are focused on creating division and destruction.

"They are unwanted in East Belfast or anywhere else, and I would urge anyone with information on this alert to contact police immediately."

The SDLP's Séamas de Faoite, who represents the Lisnasharragh district on Belfast City Council, said those behind the alert 'have nothing to offer'.

"I'm aware of ongoing incident at Henry Jones playing fields. Working to liaise with PSNI, Council and pitch users," he posted on social media.

"Those who set out to injure or strike fear have nothing to offer. Their time is done. They are the past.

"East Belfast has moved on."

Previous incidents

East Belfast GAA — the first GAA club in the east of the city for half-a-century — was targeted several times last year.

In May, a security alert at the plaing fields resulted in a nearby primary school closing for the day while police searched the area.

In August, the goalposts at the ground were set on fire in an incident that was treated as a hate crime by police.

Days later, a suspicious object at the ground sparked a security alert resulting in a school and two nurseries nearby being forced to close.

The device was later determined to be an ‘elaborate hoax’.

In October, Belfast City Council approved a £37,000 security overhaul of the site following recommendations from the PSNI in the wake of the incidents.

However, in December, the ground was targeted once again when oil was poured over the goal mouths in an incident that was again investigated as a hate crime.

In a separate incident last April, a primary school that allowed the club to hold a GAA taster event on its premises had to opt out of hosting future events after receiving 'intimidatory' emails and social media comments.