Minister refuses to rule out ban on Cliftonville fans walking to local soccer derbies

‘Bus Reds fans into Seaview’ proposals

By Gemma Burns

A local DUP MLA and Stormont minister has refused to rule out the suggestion that Cliftonville Football Club fans be bussed through the Shore Road when they attend matches against Crusaders at Seaview.

The North Belfast News has learned that rising tensions surrounding Reds’ away matches at Crusaders Shore Road ground led to a meeting between police, community workers, the two clubs and politicians ahead of last Saturday’s game.

The gathering is believed to have discussed the suggestion that Cliftonville fans be bussed in to the area and not allowed to walk through Skegoniell and the Shore Road to get to matches.

Mr McCausland claimed that residents living close to the ground had blamed some Cliftonville fans on sectarian abuse and chanting as they walk to and from the game.

The Department for Social Development minister, a former minister for sports and culture, refused to be drawn on whether he believes Cliftonville fans should be prevented from walking to the matches at Seaview.

However he is understood to be supportive of the idea and refused to rule it out.

“I want to meet with police and get a full account from the officers, see CCTV and get a full report. They (the fans) should not be allowed to behave in this way,” he said.

“I have no comment until we hold the next meeting.”

Mr McCausland accused some of the Cliftonville fans of sectarian behaviour including chanting ‘f*ck the Queen’ as they walked to the match and calling local residents ‘Orange b*stards’ on their return.

However this has been disputed by Cliftonville fans at the match who said they did not see any sectarian behaviour from other supporters.

“I am very disappointed by the behaviour of some of the Cliftonville supporters going down Skegoniell Avenue and into the ground,” Mr McCausland said.

“This is simply unacceptable while passing a unionist community and is deliberately and wilfully provocative. It is nothing to do with football or with Cliftonville, it is crass sectarianism.”

A spokesman for Cliftonville Football Club said they are “disappointed” by the minister’s comments and would prefer all parties waited until a full review of the match takes place to comment.

“Cliftonville Football Club have already requested a debriefing meeting with police and the parties following the game which is normal under agreed and established protocols,” he said.

“We are disappointed anyone who was party to discussion prior to the game would make comment before this meeting. We would rather rely on first hand reports from our stewards at the event rather than rely on second or third hand information.”

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