Galway United fans threaten boycott over abortion banner ban

Fan sanctioned by club which says stadium owners asked for standard to be removed

Members of the Maroon Army hold up a Repeal The 8th banner during a home game last April. Photograph: Facebook

Members of the Maroon Army hold up a Repeal The 8th banner during a home game last April. Photograph: Facebook

 

A group of up to 40 Galway United fans have threatened to boycott the club’s matches after a fan was banned for holding up a “Repeal the 8th” banner during games.

Since April, supporter Joe Loughnane had been bringing the banner, which refers to the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution concerning the right to life of an unborn child, to home games at Eamonn Deacy Park in Galway as well as an away match in Dublin.

Mr Loughnane said he was ejected from the Galway ground an hour into Friday’s match against Derry City and was then handed an indefinite ban from attending games by club chairman Jonathan Corbett.

“I was standing in the singing section about 15 minutes into the second half, cheering along with the hard-core Galway United fans. Then I was approached by the events controller who was with two gardaí,” he said.

“Initially they said to me that I was drinking, and then they said that it was because I flew a banner at the previous game that said ‘Repeal the 8th’,” added Mr Loughnane, who denied consuming alcohol in the stadium.

Fan pressure

He said dozens of fellow members of the Maroon Army supporters’ group have pledged to boycott Galway United’s home games until he is readmitted, and a petition will be launched later this week.

In response, the club’s chairman said the ban was handed out after the Galway Football Association, which owns the stadium, contacted him to say the banner contravened the terms of a tenancy agreement which proscribes the display of political messages.

The Galway FA was originally contacted on the matter by a group of female Galway United fans who regularly attend home games but took issue with the banner, said Mr Corbett.

“Galway FA asked us to act on it, so we acted on it in the previous week and asked Joe to take the sign down which he wouldn’t do.

“We want as many fans in the ground [as possible] but they have to abide by the rules of the ground. If you don’t, you can’t be in there,” he said.

The Maroon Army group is also known to sport signs in support of LGBT rights and refugees.

Mr Corbett said he will invite fans to a meeting to resolve the issue. He expressed concern at the effect that such a large group of fans staying away from games would have on the club, given declining attendances across the league. Galway United’s average home attendance is about 1,500.

Mr Corbett described Mr Loughnane as a “very passionate fan”.

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