29 October 1998 Edition

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``Don't play RUC''- appeal to Donegal Celtic

Le Peadar Whelan

Sinn Fein's Gerard O'Neill has called on West Belfast soccer team, Donegal Celtic not to play against the RUC in the semi-final of the Steel and Son's Cup, set for 14 November.

Adding his voice to appeals for the club to pull out of the fixture, Mark Thompson of the Relatives for Justice group said, if Donegal Celtic play the RUC it will be, ``a terrible decision, given the RUC's appalling record of human rights abuse.

``I can understand people involved in soccer wanting to play this match for sporting reasons but this is not just a' football match'. The RUC will use this game as a marker to say they are becoming more acceptable to the nationalist community.

``The RUC haven't apologised for what they done to this community over the years, they have colluded with loyalists, killed people in this community with plastic bullets and disfigured hundreds of others. I really think this game should be abandoned'', concluded Thompson.

Speaking to AP/RN councillor O'Neill, who represents Lenadoon where the club is based, said: ``Sinn Fein met with club officials on Tuesday night and the club's committee have deferred their decision about playing the match until a meeting on Thursday when they want us to address the players. However we believe that the decision is one for the committee to make and they should accept that responsibility and not leave it up to the players''.

This is the second time in as many years West Belfast soccer team, Donegal Celtic, finds itself at the centre of controversy over a game against the RUC.

In November 1996 the pair were drawn against each other in the Irish Cup. Donegal Celtic withdrew and claimed they were victims of threats, but speaking to AP/RN Una Gillespie who represented the area for Sinn Fein at that time categorically denied that the club or any of it's members were threatened.

She said: ``Local people who have suffered at the hands of the RUC did not want that game to go ahead and be used to legitimise the same people who were responsible for the murder of Julie Livingstone, from nearby, who was shot dead by the RUC, but no one was threatened''.

An Phoblacht
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