23 March 2000 Edition

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League under fire as RUC match goes ahead

Kathleen Duffy, whose 15-year-old son Seamus was shot dead by the RUC, has reacted angrily to the decision of Newington FC to play a controversial soccer match against the RUC last Saturday, 18 March.

She said that while the relatives of the victims of RUC violence acknowledged the dilemma the North Belfast club faced - Amateur League mandarins had threatened to expel the club - she believed that playing the match Newington made it easier for the Amateur League to force other nationalist clubs to fulfil fixtures against the RUC in future.

She told An Phoblacht: ``The Amateur League, in giving the RUC credence as a sporting body, are in danger of showing themselves to be biased and sectarian, on the one hand, biased towards the RUC by allowing them to remain in the league and, on the other hand biased against the solitary nationalist club by threatening them with expulsion.''

Duffy continued: ``Unless the Amateur League decide to address this issue, other nationalist teams besides Newington, could well be forced into further painful decisions in the future.''

Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast, Gerry Kelly, backed this view, saying the dilemma was not one of Newington Football Club's making and the burden of such a decision should have been shouldered by the Amateur League, which showed a significant degree of flexibility in accommodating the RUC by expanding the league. Last season, the Amateur League expanded the division in which the RUC were playing rather than let them be relegated to a lower division and face fixtures against the numerous nationalist teams there.

``The RUC is not a sporting body. They should not be in the league. The dilemma faced by Newington Football Club will obviously arise again when other teams from nationalist areas find themselves in a similar position,'' said Kelly.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1