Club boots SF clinic

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WOLFE Tone’s GAA club has reversed a decision to host a Sinn Fein advice evening after the Ulster Council said it was against rules that ban involvement in party politics.

The Derrymacash club gave Upper Bann Sinn Fein representatives the go-ahead to use the club and among those due to take part was Upper Bann MLA and Education Minister John O’Dowd.

A Sinn Fein flyer had been distributed to houses around the village and Lough shore. However complaints were made to the GAA’s Ulster Council and a decision was made on Monday to change the venue.

“There was a misunderstanding regarding the organising of an advice clinic for local political representatives,” said a spokesman.

“Following clarification with the club it was decided not to proceed with the event due to the GAA’s strict policy on being non party political.

“After consultation with Sinn Fein and the club both parties agreed the event would be held in a more suitable venue.”

The GAA’s Official Guide clearly states the association should be ‘non-party political’. “Party political questions shall not be discussed at meetings and no committee, club, council or representative thereof shall take part as such in any party political movement.”

Anyone found in breach risks being suspended for up to 24 weeks. The Ulster Council spokesman said the club would not be penalised because the event was cancelled in advance.

The SDLP’s Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly accused Sinn Fein of taking advantage of the club.

“Sinn Fein clearly knew the rules,” she said. “They have put other GAA clubs in a predicament before.

“I was contacted by people in the area where the leaflet drop took place. Supporters of the club were a bit concerned about what they were getting caught up in.”

Sinn Fein councillor Mairead O’Dowd said the party had merely been trying to provide services to an ‘isolated rural community’.

“We were very happy that the club agreed to assist us in our efforts to provide advice services for local people by allowing us to book their facilities,” she said.

“It is a pity that the SDLP instead of getting behind and supporting the local club in this effort, sought instead to create controversy and deny local people valuable services.”

She said the party had taken the decision to cancel the clinic.