ALLIANCE Sports Spokesperson Michael Long has accused former Sports Minister Michael McGimpsey of totally misrepresenting Alliance’s position on sectarianism in sport.
Responding to a attack on Alliance by the UUP representative today, Councillor Long accused the former minister of being guilty of completely failing to address sectarianism in sport when he had the chance.
Cllr Long said: “This attack on Alliance is a desperate attempt by the former sports minister to disguise the fact that during his time in office he failed to introduce one piece of legislation to take on sectarianism in sport.
“I have attended hundreds of local and international football games over the years, and if Mr McGimpsey thinks that there is no sectarian chanting, one wonders if he visits the same grounds.
“Perhaps he can’t remember the Neil Lennon incident, in which the captain of our international team received loyalist death threats.
“The majority of local soccer fans are certainly not bigots, but they want rid of the tensions created by the vocal minority. In Scotland, Rangers and Celtic fans now report sectarian behaviour to the clubs, who take action, such as the removal of season tickets.
“I have defended the IFA’s attempts to stamp out sectarianism, but we all have a part to play in ridding Northern Ireland of bigotry in sport – something Mr McGimpsey singularly failed to do as sports minister.
“When I met with the IFA they wanted better legislative back-up to deal with the problems they face, yet the former minister still wasn’t able to introduce the Football Offences Act in Northern Ireland.
“His feeble attempts to turn soccer into even more of a political football than he already has is pathetic, and his criticism of Alliance for asking Rangers and Celtic for their advice is laughable in light of his own inaction.”