SENATOR Niall Ó Donnghaile has called on the Seanad to show solidarity with East Belfast GAA after a security alert at pitches used by the club.
The Sinn Féin senator was speaking after the Henry Jones playing fields were forced to close for 24 hours and road closures were put in place while police searched the area.
The alert also led to the closure of a nearby primary school and nursery.
Although nothing was found at the grounds in the Castlereagh area, the incident has been condemned by politicians, while the club say they are 'disheartened' by this latest incident.
Speaking in the Seanad this morning, Senator Ó Donnghaile called on the house to show solidarity with East Belfast GAA as he highlighted the positive work being done by the club.
"We are seeing some really nasty things said about that club despite the fantastic, inclusive and positive work it does in the east of the city to bring the GAA and Gaelic sports to all age groups and people from all backgrounds, ethnicities and communities," he said.
"I am sure it is the united stance of this House that we would send our solidarity to the members of East Belfast GAA and condemn outright anyone who would attack that club in any way for simply wanting to enjoy its sport, have fun and bring people together.
Back speaking in the Seanad this morning, where I sent solidarity to East Belfast GAA & condemned any threats or attacks on those simply wanting to play & enjoy Gaelic sports & games. I’ve asked that the Cathaoirleach would write to @EastBelfastGAA expressing our united support. pic.twitter.com/5IDBAWi66d
— Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile 🇮🇪🇵🇸 (@NiallSF) May 24, 2023
"If it is agreeable to the House, perhaps the Cathaoirleach would write to the secretary of East Belfast GAA expressing the solidarity and support of this House."
Senator Ó Donnghaile's comments were welcomed by Cathaoirleach Jerry Buttimer and supported by senators Mark Wall and Paddy Burke.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Seanad, Lisa Chambers, added that it was 'regrettable that an investigation had to happen where there was potentially a suspect device at a GAA pitch where children play'.
'Endless disruption and chaos'
The security alert at the playing fields in Church Road began on Monday evening, with the PSNI closing the grounds to conduct a search.
A road closure at the junction of Church Road and Manse Road was put in place later that night, while searches involving Ammunition Technical Officers continued on Tuesday morning.
As a result, the adjacent Lough View Integrated Primary School and Nursery was forced to close for the day.
The alert eventually ended on Tuesday evening, with police saying nothing untoward had been found.
As the leader of @uuponline let me be clear. This is wrong and must be condemned utterly.
There is no nuisance to this & those dancing in the margins need to be clearer. https://t.co/sZyrCLyBPJ
— Doug Beattie (@BeattieDoug) May 23, 2023
Local politicians condemned those behind the alert, including Andy Allen of the UUP.
"There cannot, under any circumstance, be any justification for this," the East Belfast MLA tweeted.
"Sports disrupted, children unable to attend school, businesses and the wider community impacted, for what!
"I would encourage anyone with information regarding this to contact the police."
Meanwhile, Alliance counterpart Peter McReynolds said those responsible should 'hang their heads in shame'.
"EB GAA want to do nothing more than bring people and communities together through sport," he added.
"They do not deserve this endless disruption and chaos."
East Belfast GAA was the subject of a similar security alert in August 2020, shortly after the club was founded.
Meanwhile, a local primary school was last month subjected to 'intimidatory comments' after hosting a GAA taster event organised by the club.
In a statement, East Belfast GAA said it was 'saddened' by this latest incident.
"East Belfast GAA are disheartened to hear about the recent security alert at Henry Jones Playing Fields," it read.
"We, alongside many sports teams in East Belfast who share these pitches, have worked hard to revive these facilities for all members of the community and are saddened at those who threaten to disrupt the peace and cause alarm."
— East Belfast GAA (@EastBelfastGAA) May 22, 2023
It added: "East Belfast GAA is one of the fastest-growing sports clubs in the city.
"Our membership is diverse, and we are proud to be a part of an ever-changing, multicultural city."
Police have urged anyone with information on the incident to contact them on 101, quoting reference number 1953 of May 22, 2023.
Information can also be provided anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.