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GAA club has 'no problem' with player in police

(Brian Campbell, Irish News)

A Co Armagh GAA club has said there were "no problems" in the locker room after reports that a player had joined the police.

Pat McNamee, Sinn Féin assembly member for Newry and Armagh, claimed that the club's board had called a meeting to discuss the matter. However, a spokesman for the Keady Dwyers club said there was no split.

"There is no problem at the club. All the players are back training and had an Under-21 championship match on Saturday," he said.

The spokesman said no players were being excluded and it was "absolutely untrue" that the club was in disarray.

A rule banning members of the security forces from joining GAA clubs – Rule 21 – was scrapped by the association in November 2001 after 98 years, although Armagh was one of five counties which voted to have it retained. Mr McNamee said he understood that people involved with the club would be uncomfortable with the development as they were "not at all happy with policing arrangements".

"Some of the members of the club aren't too happy with it and I believe the committee is going to meet quite soon to discuss the situation," he said.

"As yet they don't have an official position and it's a matter for them to decide how to manage it.

"Constitutionally there is nothing to prevent a member of the police joining a GAA club but the necessary changes to policing still haven't taken place."

Mr McNamee said it was the first time he had been aware of a GAA player joining the police. He said he would not be giving the club any advice on the issue.

The club spokesman would not confirm that a meeting had been set up.

Armagh SDLP representative Jim Lennon said it was a "fundamental right" for people to decide their own career path.

"Everyone has the right to choose the career of their choice. This is a fundamental human right of any democratic society," he said.

"The SDLP believe, as (the Republic's) minister for foreign affairs Brian Cowen stated last week at the talks, that there should be no impediment to anyone joining the police service.

"People should respect the rights of the individual concerned. The SDLP will continue to work to ensure that the police service is representative and fully accountable."

February 10, 2003

This article appeared first in the February 6, 2003 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News