Unionist councillor Adrian Watson, pending a decision by the referee.
The BBC reported that on Sunday, Tesco in Antrim Town "had a number of very vociferous complaints both in person and on the phone, including one from a political representative regarding the wearing of the GAA shirts while the group were collecting". The 'political representative' was reportedly Mr Watson.
The issue was a group of under-12 year old girls and boys packing shopping bags in order to raise funds for their GAA club, St Comghall's. Despite the fact that it is common practice for clubs – scouts, basketball, football and rugby – to raise funds in this way, and always wearing their club regalia, Mr Watson complained "on behalf of some of his constituents" uniquely, and 'very vociferously', about the kids from St Comghall's.
Need we ask why? Of course not. Mr Watson was making representations, as he must have known, on behalf of bigots, pure and simple, who were reacting against the GAA because it is a large, successful, proudly Irish sporting organisation.
Following the usual storm-in-a-teacup, Mr Watson very quickly came up with his excuses:
"A story on the BBC website reports that I complained to Tesco following a charity bag pack were children from a local school came along wearing GAA shirts. This is inaccurate. I and the Ulster Unionist Party have no objection whatsoever to Tesco encouraging voluntary, sporting and charitable groups to raise money in their stores.
It is regrettable that the issue of children collecting money at their local supermarket has received this much negative media attention. The society we are building for the people of Northern Ireland must include a commitment to civil and religious liberty for all.
I would hope that this does not impact on the ability of other groups to use this scheme to raise money for good causes. I fully recognise that Tesco are well within their right to do provide this service, allowing school groups, clubs and charities the opportunity to raise vital and much needed funds.
Since the story broke today I have been in touch with the GAA club in question and stressed that I was not involved in the complaint.”
This blog suspects that Mr Watson was 'corrected' quickly by his party. But in either case, it is a good sign that the UUP is committed to eradicating the remnants, or appearances, of this kind of bigotry.
[NB this post replaces an earlier post which pre-dated Mr Watson's statement]