Derry PSNI officer ‘proud to play GAA’

A police officer from Derry has spoken publicly for the first time about playing Gaelic football for the PSNI despite the threat from dissident republicans.

The young constable will tell his story in a new BBC radio documentary, which will be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle on Sunday.

The Game Of Their Lives - presented by BBC Radio Foyle’s Jenny Witt and produced by Joe Doran - explores the relationship between the PSNI and the GAA more than a decade after the association scrapped Rule 21. The controversial rule barred members of the security forces in the north from playing Gaelic games.

The police officer - who can’t give his real name for security reasons - is one of a handful of officers who still plays for his own club. He says he’s proud to play for the police despite the ongoing dissident threat.

“It’s a shame the way things are at the minute that we can’t be more proud of what we’re doing and how well we’re doing,” he said.

“But I guess that’s just one of the things that’s going to come with progress, that maybe in time we will perhaps be able to tell people in normal life what we do and that we play for a gaelic team that we’re proud of playing for.”

The programme explores what it’s like for a serving police officer to play in venues where the police were traditionally shunned or even hated during the Troubles.

It features the views of GAA members at grassroots level in Counties Derry, Tyrone and Armagh and also features interviews with Derry All Ireland winner, and Derry Journal columnist Joe Brolly and veteran commentator Michael O Muircheartaigh.

BBC Radio Foyle’s Jenny Witt said: “The past decade has brought massive change in both the GAA and the PSNI. It’s been a privilege to hear at first-hand how people have taken steps towards each other, and how difficult that’s been. But it’s also important to understand why that’s still not quite possible for others. Joe and I were trying to find out what’s happened on the ground since Rule 21 was abolished. The picture is patchy, but there is progress. We’ve learned a lot while making this documentary, and hopefully our listeners will too.”

The Game Of Their Lives will be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle on Sunday, September 9 at 1.30pm