HATE MESSAGE REMOVED: The banner threatening GAA players at Grove Playing Fields last weekend was removed by Council officials. 
HATE MESSAGE REMOVED: The banner threatening GAA players at Grove Playing Fields last weekend was removed by Council officials. 

BELFAST City Council have reassured the public that Grove Playing Fields in North Belfast is “open for everyone to enjoy”.

It comes after an alleged sectarian incident on Thursday evening when a large crowd subjected park users and local sports teams to sectarian abuse.

Last weekend, a banner was erected at the entrance to the facility with the slogan ‘Anti-British GAA Not Welcome’. It was then removed by the Council.

SDLP Paul McCusker said he had been contacted about the incident.

“I was in contact with police and Council in relation to an incident where Catholic teams were intimidated from Grove Playing Fields. This is a busy public park and we have to do all we can to eradicate sectarianism that shouldn’t be accepted anywhere and everyone should feel safe in all our parks. I have also raised the issue of provision for our local teams and I will be discussing the incident tonight with reps from York Road and look at how we help relieve tensions at the Grove.”

In a statement, dissident republican grouping Saoradh said it had been contacted by a number of parents, sports providers and park users at Grove Playing Fields.

“Crowds of loyalist men, including some masked, gathered at various entrances to the park and patrolled the pitches," the group said. "They made sectarian and threatening remarks to youth teams training, dog walkers and children - anyone they perceived to be a ‘Taig’ or ‘Fenian’. This bigotry should be condemned by all, and follows on from threatening banner and graffiti displayed at the weekend, pictured below. This cannot be allowed to continue, council property should be free to ALL to access free from sectarianism, racism or any other discriminatory or intimidatory actions."

A spokesperson for Belfast City Council said that it was aware of an incident that took place at Grove playing fields on Thursday evening.

“Our parks are shared spaces for everyone to enjoy and we would encourage anyone who witnesses such incidents to report it immediately to the PSNI."

Anyone who witnesses unacceptable behaviour in a public park can also call the Council anti-social behaviour officers on 9027 0469 or email  envhealth@belfastcity.gov.uk.