Alliance Spokesperson on Sport, Cllr. Michael Long, has charged the former Sports Minister Michael McGimpsey with ‘breathtaking hypocrisy’, following comments made by the UUP man in an interview on the BBC’s ‘Evening Extra’ programme, in relation to his actions while Minister regarding the Football Offences Act. The Act is again in the news after judges were only able to hand out lenient sentences to those involved in on-pitch violence at a Glentoran/Linfield game in April.
Cllr. Long said, “Yesterday’s short sentences again showed that sport in Northern Ireland is suffering because of the failure of Government
Ministers, including Michael McGimpsey, to extend the Football Offences Act to Northern Ireland.
“For over five years Alliance has lobbied successive DCAL Ministers to extend the Act to Northern Ireland. If this had been done, any fan even going onto the pitch without permission could have been prosecuted and those involved in the horrific clashes at the Oval would have faced stiffer penalties commensurate with their disgraceful behaviour which brought local
football into disrepute.
“Instead the Ministers have done nothing to tackle hooliganism, sectarian or racist chanting at sporting events, in terms of introducing new legislation.
“I was, therefore, stunned to hear Michael McGimpsey claim to have initiated the extension of the Football Offence Act, which would have also outlawed sectarian and racist chanting, and accusing the current Minister of delay. This is breathtakingly hypocritical from the man who, in February 2000 refused an Alliance Party request in the Assembly to extend the Act and who then did nothing to move the measures forward for the remaining 2 years he was in control.
“This really is a outrageous case of the pot calling the kettle black. In fact, his successor, Angela Smith, revealed to me in a meeting in February that she would like to see such measures introduced this year and had set up a group to progress the issue — considerably more action than Michael McGimspey managed in his time in office.
“Yesterday’s lenient penalties for those involved yet again illustrate what happens when the Government and authorities stick their heads in the sand when confronted by hooliganism. I would appeal again for the new Sports Minister, to do what Michael McGimpsey did not, and extend the Act as soon as possible.
“It is also past time that the clubs involved stopped their dithering and fulfilled their promises at the time to get tough with those prosecuted and ban them from their grounds.”