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Supporters hold strong after football fan is banned from Galway ground for pro-choice banner

Joe Loughnane says he was escorted out of the ground by gardaí.

A GALWAY UTD football fan says he has been banned from the club’s home ground for displaying a ‘Repeal the 8th’ flag at matches.

Joe Loughnane says he was escorted out of Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday by gardaí and a member of the club’s board.

13407599_10209603107740474_1201117437_n The Repeal the 8th flag at Galway Utd's Eamonn Deacy Park. (Source: Photo by Joe Loughnane)

He says that at least 30 other fans also walked out in solidarity when he was told to leave.

“I was told I’d been warned before about the banner. No Galway Utd official has ever approached me about drinking or flying banners or anything,” Loughnane says.

Loughnane, who holds a Masters in Law from NUIG and has worked with the United Left Alliance, says that he wasn’t even flying the flag on Friday when he was asked to leave.

The flag, he says, was previously held aloft by himself and a number of other fans at other home matches.

The club’s chairman Jonathan Corbett told The Irish Times that the ban was put in place after the Galway Football Association (GFA), which owns the ground, informed the club that political messages were contrary to the lease agreement.

Speaking to the TheJournal.ie, Loughnane says that he has been in contact with the GFA who told him that the dispute is between himself and the board of Galway Utd.

“People are passing the buck a little bit,” Loughnane says, who added that fans are planning a petition to ask the club to reverse their decision.

League of Ireland football has a strong tradition of political activism with flags supporting refugees and marriage equality prominent at matches in recent years.

 

Loughnane says that Galway Utd has been no different with the Maroon Army fan group displaying banners that supported last year’s marriage referendum. He also says that fans have been flying a Palestinian flag for at least the last 15 years.

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Asked why he wants to use the ground to support the campaign to have the Eighth Amendment repealed, Loughnane says that it’s about engaging men on the issue.

Basically I present myself as a pro-choice man but instead of trying to talk to women about the issue of Repeal the 8th, I thought it would be more useful to go the matches and raise the issue with other men especially who would be at the games.

“Some might even go home and do some research and inform themselves further,” he says.

Last weekend’s round of matches was the last for three weeks as the League of Ireland breaks for Euro 2016. Loughnane feels that club officials may have timed the ban to coincide with this in the hope that the dispute may have blown over when matches return.

He says that he is instead seeking a meeting with board members about his ban and the flying of political banners at club matches.

“We’re going to go through the official avenues,” he says.

- Attempts by TheJournal.ie to speak to the club’s chairman have so far been unsuccessful. 

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Rónán Duffy

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