POLITICIANS have criticised those behind 'intimidatory comments' sent to a Belfast primary school after it was used as the venue for a children's GAA event.
Strandtown Primary School hosted a taster event on Saturday, March 25 for children to try out Gaelic games.
However, according to Belfast Live, the school said it was unable to hold similar events in future after receiving 'intimidatory' emails and social media comments.
The school said it was 'extremely disappointed' at having to make the decision.
'Simply about children'
East Belfast GAA has now released a statement thanking the school.
"East Belfast GAA Academy are grateful to Strandtown PS for the hire of their premises for our 'Come and Try' event, which was an opportunity for children from all communities, societies and ethnic backgrounds in East Belfast to have a chance to try a new or unfamiliar sport," read the statement.
"We would like to thank everyone within our local community for the support they have given us and continue to give us.
"For us and our academy, Gaelic games are simply about children from all sections of our community playing sport — together."
Politicians have since condemned those behind the messages that forced the school's decision.
Sharing news of the comments, Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie tweeted: "Grim and depressing. I'm genuinely lost for words."
Meanwhile, his Alliance counterpart Naomi Long slammed those behind the 'thuggery and intimidation'.
"Shame on those who would threaten a primary school for any reason, let alone them allowing children to experience a sport," tweeted the East Belfast MLA.
"East Belfast GAA and Strandtown Primary deserve better than this thuggery and intimidation."
Shame on those who would threaten a primary school for any reason, let alone them allowing children to experience a sport.@EastBelfastGAA and #StrandtownPrimary deserve better than this thuggery and intimidation. https://t.co/Jd6wwhgGHI
— Naomi Long MLA (@naomi_long) April 1, 2023
Belfast City councillors also criticised the culprits.
Ms Long's Alliance Party colleague Ross McMullan branded those behind the messages 'pathetic bigots'.
He tweeted: "Abhorrent. Progress towards a united community that celebrates diversity will not be stopped by fragile & pathetic bigots of any 'religious' or 'political' creed — that united community is already here through initiatives like this.
"Solidarity with Strandtown PS & East Belfast GAA."
Abhorrent. Progress towards a united community that celebrates diversity will not be stopped by fragile & pathetic bigots of any ‘religious’ or ‘political’ creed -that united community is already here through initiatives like this. Solidarity with Strandtown PS & @EastBelfastGAA. https://t.co/074kpXHvRN
— Cllr Ross McMullan (@rossalliance) April 1, 2023
Meanwhile, Green Party councillor Anthony Flynn said the club's initiatives should be welcomed.
"There is no place for this type of nonsense in 2023," he tweeted.
"East Belfast GAA have brought a vibrancy to East Belfast which is to be welcomed.
"Children should be encouraged to get involved in sport, rather than subject to intimidation.
"They have my full support."
There is no place for this type of nonsense in 2023, East Belfast GAA have brought a vibrancy to East Belfast which is to be welcomed.
Children should be encouraged to get involved in sport, rather than subject to intimidation. They have my full support. https://t.co/ESmscVtGnQ
— Cllr Anthony Flynn (@AntoFlynnser) April 1, 2023
Mr Flynn’s comments were echoed by SDLP councillor Séamas de Faoite, who described the club as a 'huge asset to our community'.
"This has to stop," tweeted Mr de Faoite.
"The people who make it their business to try to intimidate this club should come and see them train and play — see what they bring to East Belfast.
"They're a huge asset to our community and they threaten no-one.
"East Belfast GAA are here to stay."
Kids mental health funding cut. Kids school holiday hunger funding cut. Kids intimidated out of playing sports in East Belfast. All in one week. It’s actually perverted how we’re allowing kids to be the collateral for political failure here.
— Cllr. Séamas de Faoite (@SeamasBelfast) April 1, 2023
East Belfast GAA was founded in 2020 by former London and Kingdom Kerry Gaels footballer Dave McGreevy.
It was established during the first Covid-19 lockdown and sought to address the lack of a Gaelic club in that part of the city.
In August 2020, police received an anonymous call claiming explosive devices had been left at playing fields where the club was training, although the alert turned out to be a hoax.