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Police investigating 'sectarian hate crime' at GAA training session in Belfast

East Belfast GAA club was set up earlier this year to cater for players from all backgrounds.

Members of East Belfast GAA club pictured during a training session last month.
Members of East Belfast GAA club pictured during a training session last month.

Updated Aug 6th 2020, 2:01 PM

PSNI OFFICERS CONDUCTED a search of playing fields in Belfast last night after receiving a call that claimed a package had been left in the vicinity of a GAA training session.

A team from East Belfast GAA – a cross-community club which was set up earlier this year to cater for players from all backgrounds – were training at the venue on Church Road in Castlereagh.

A PSNI spokesperson told The42 this morning that officers left the scene after “nothing untoward” was found. The facility was subsequently reopened but enquiries into the incident are ongoing. 

Police said they are treating the incident as a sectarian hate crime.

In a statement issued on social media, East Belfast GAA club said: “It is the club’s understanding that, during the course of training, the police received a call that a package had been left somewhere in the vicinity of the playing fields upon which our members were training.

“On the advice of the PSNI, once a live situation was identified, the police and the club worked quickly to make people safe and help them disperse from the area calmly and efficiently. 

“The club expresses its thanks to both the PSNI and to our playing members, who behaved impeccably during the situation.

“The creation and maintenance of a safe environment for sport to be played by all and the safety of our members whilst playing remains a priority for us all.

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“The club intends to continue to work with the police, the community in East Belfast and the public at large, whose support we have enjoyed on a daily basis, to ensure the continued safety and enjoyment of our members and patrons. Our door remains open, to all.”

In a statement today, Chief Superintendent Jonathan Roberts of the PSNI said: “At 8pm yesterday evening, Wednesday 5 August, police received an anonymous call that a number of explosive devices had been left at playing fields at Church Road in Castlereagh. 

“Officers attended, liaised with the local GAA team using the facility, closed the site and maintained a safety cordon overnight until a full search was carried out this morning. Nothing untoward was found and the facility has reopened.

“We have launched an investigation into the incident, which we are treating as a sectarian hate crime and have forensically examined a nearby public telephone box. 

“I would also ask anyone who was in the area at the time who saw anyone acting suspiciously, or anyone with information which could help our investigation, to contact police on 101 quoting reference number 1693 05/08/20.”

He said that a report can also be submitted online using the non-emergency reporting form, or anyone with information can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online.

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About the author:

Paul Dollery

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