Dáil Éireann - Volume 306 - 04 May, 1978

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Crossmaglen (Armagh) GAA Grounds.

3. Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in the interest of sport, harmony and peace, he will indicate the position of the Government in relation to the disruption of normal activities at the Saint Oliver Plunkett GAA grounds, Crossmaglen, County Armagh, due to the presence of sections of the British Army.

Mr. O'Kennedy: The Government are aware of the undesirable and negative aspects of the use made by the British Army of the GAA grounds at Crossmaglen and have drawn these to the attention of the British authorities. The disturbance caused by British Army activities in the area and damage to GAA property there have been raised on several occasions in recent years and it has been urged that the needs of the British Army in the area should be met in some alternative manner which would avoid further difficulties for the GAA.

The British authorities have given assurances that there was absolutely no intention of dispossessing club members of their pitch, nor of restricting in any way the access which they enjoyed. The British authorities in the past accepted that it was unfortunately the case that some interference had taken place as a result of helicopter landings and gave a further assurance [419] that every effort would be made to minimise the disturbance. Subsequent reports of similar disturbances have also been brought to their attention. The British authorities have also said that any damage to the playing area was very much regretted and that compensation could be sought.

I can assure the Deputy that I am fully prepared to pursue with the British authorities any developments at the GAA grounds at Crossmaglen which might be in breach of the clear assurances already conveyed by them.

Mr. Kenny: Would the Minister agree that this undoubted disruption gives a certain amount of substance to certain subversive organisations for increased activity? Has the Minister made any definite progress with a view to contacting the Northern Office and asking them to find an alternative site if sections of the British Army must be kept there?

Mr. O'Kennedy: I agree that actions which seem to be directed at a national sporting organisation can give rise to unhelpful reactions among members in certain areas, and we have impressed this on the British Government. I assure the Deputy that this is a matter of continuing interest and concern, and we will continue to press the British Government to find alternative accommodation.