Page last updated at 11:24 GMT, Wednesday, 29 April 2009 12:24 UK

Tesco kids had to remove GAA gear

Tesco logo

A group of bag packers representing a GAA club were told to remove their club shirts at Tesco, it has emerged.

The children from St Comghall's club were taking part in a charity bag pack at Tesco in Antrim town.

However, after "very vociferous complaints both in person and on the phone", the company said it asked for team shirts to be removed.

A parent of one of the children involved said the shirts did not feature "anything contentious".

The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) is an all Ireland sporting and community organisation which in Northern Ireland is overwhelmingly supported by Catholics.

In the past some unionist politicians, including Northern Ireland's sports minister Gregory Campbell, have criticised it for not doing enough to improve community relations.

A spokesman for Tesco said: "It is our policy to ask that the groups wear their uniforms so customers will know the organisation for which they are collecting."

"This gives the customer the option to go to another checkout if they do not wish to support this particular organisation.


"On Sunday, we 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.

"It is understandable that our duty manager then deviated from Tesco policy and asked that those packing should do so in plain T-shirts."


Declan Callan said he and his nine-year-old twin daughters arrived at the store only to be told they would have to go home and get changed.

"One of the club members came out and said 'I'm sorry you'll have to go home and get the girls changed because the manager has received a complaint and has asked us to take off our team regalia'," Mr Callan told Radio Ulster's Talk Back programme.

"The girls were a bit upset and couldn't understand the whole concept of somebody having an issue with the GAA.

"Nearly every weekend there's a club bag-packing there - Scouts, basketball, football and rugby teams... and they're always in their club regalia.

"The club T-shirts are plain green with black sleeves, and the club badge is just the round tower of Antrim. So there's nothing contentious and most of the ones bag-packing would have been under the age of 12.

We are re-issuing our bag packing procedures today and would be disappointed if we had to discontinue this practice
Tesco spokesman

"When the store closed nobody came near us and said 'Look we're awful sorry about that or anything." They never came back near us."

The Tesco spokesman said that the complaints continued after the weekend.

"Subsequently we have had several complaints to the store both from those opposed to the GAA shirts being worn and those opposed to the duty manager asking for the shirts to be removed," he continued.

"We are re-issuing our bag packing procedures today and would be disappointed if we had to discontinue this practice as many charities and sporting organisations depend on this facility to raise funds.


"It is never our intention to cause offence so we rely on the co-operation and tolerance of our customers as we know that we can never please everyone."

Councillor Adrian Watson from the Ulster Unionist party told the BBC he had passed complaints on to Tesco on behalf of some of his constituents.

His party colleague Drew Ritchie said Tesco needs to review its policy to assure charity collections do not cause offence.

"The public don't mind giving to local charities but sometimes they do get confused when sports clubs are involved. Obviously offence has been caused to some customers," he added.

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