A British supermarket chain ordered two young GAA members to remove their sports jerseys while fundraising at a County Antrim supermarket.
The children, all under 12 years old, had been told to remove their club shirts at Tesco in Antrim town before being allowed to take part in a charity bag pack -- despite having originally been told by the store to wear them.
“We have the communication from Tesco that said the children should wear their club apparel,” Tom Crilly, chairman of St Comgall’s GAC said.
Declan Callan and his nine-year-old twin daughters were among those who had to return home and change.
“The girls were a bit upset and couldn’t understand the whole concept of somebody having an issue with the GAA,” he said.
“The club T-shirts are plain green with black sleeves, and the club badge is just the round tower of Antrim.
“When the store closed nobody came near us and said ‘Look we’re awful sorry about that’ or anything. They never came back near us.”
eirigi spokesperson Breandan Mac Cionnaith has said the decision was “startlingly bigoted”.
Tesco claims that they received a number of “very vociferous complaints both in person and on the phone” about the presence of the children.
One of those who objected with UUP councillor Adrian Watson, who claimed he would have done the same if it had been the Orange Order.
Unionists have often branded the GAA -- an open, non-sectarian sporting organisation -- as the nationalist equivalent of the exclusively Protestant and openly sectarian Orange Order.
Antrim residents have vowed to boycott the store until the policy is reversed.
Mac Cionnaith said: “Tesco’s decision to treat these children and St Comgall’s GAA club in this manner was a startlingly bigoted one.
“Sporting and youth groups of many varieties often carry out charity fundraising in this store with their club colours proudly on display. Quite rightly, there is never any problem with these events. Yet, when it came to children in GAA tops, the store has allowed itself to be pressurised into causing maximum offence.
“An official apology should be issued by Tesco without delay to the children and members of St Comgall’s. The children should also be invited back to the store to complete their scheme in the manner originally intended and deemed acceptable for every other sporting group.
“The Ulster Unionist Party also has questions to answer about this matter. Do the actions of councillor Adrian Watson reflect official party policy? Is it the opinion of the UUP that young members of GAA clubs should not be allowed to wear their club colours in public settings?
“This incident highlights the wider contempt with which Gaelic games and culture are held by pro-British elements in the Six Counties.
“In the very recent past, GAA clubs have been burnt to the ground and its members threatened with attack. The adoption of such an anti-GAA policy by a multinational company and politicians sustains the atmosphere in which these attacks are allowed to happen.”
Meanwhile, an unrelated decision by Cork Tesco workers to take strike action on Wednesday could spread across Ireland.
The workers took the action after Tesco refused to honour established terms and conditions when moving staff to a new store in the area.
The firm is most identified with the price-gouging practices of many international retail outlets operating in the 26 Counties. Its mark-up of between 20% and 80% on goods sold south of the border relative to those sold in the north -- recently described by the chain as its “Irish Republic retail premium” -- helped Tesco increase its annual profits to over three billion pounds sterling last year.
Local eirigi spokesman Daithi Mac Maistir said Tesco was now trying to take advantage of the economic crisis to attack the conditions and pay of vulnerable Irish workers.
“In a disgraceful move, staff were threatened that, if they took strike action, they would be locked out without pay until June. These are clearly bully boy tactics.”