Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein minister set for Northern Ireland match at Windsor Park

By Adrian Rutherford

Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin could face a hostile reception when she attends Northern Ireland's crunch Euro 2012 qualifier against the Faroe Islands tonight.

Messages encouraging fans to sing God Save The Queen throughout the 90 minutes have been appearing on supporters' forums. The Sinn Fein minister confirmed last month that she would be at the fixture.

But while Ms Ni Chuilin will break new ground by attending, she will not be there for the national anthems at the start and will take her seat after God Save The Queen is performed.

The minister said similar arrangements were made for her DUP predecessor Edwin Poots when he attended a GAA game.

Gary McAllister from the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters' Clubs said it was important to focus on what was happening on the football pitch.

"As an apolitical and sporting organisation, we do not wish to enter any quasi-political discussion, instead focusing on football and supporters' issues," he said.

Last night the Belfast Telegraph visited the 'Our Wee Country' forum, and while some comments were offensive, others called for fans to rise above sectarian bigotry.

One posted: "She's got a rotten past but she's sports minister now, might as well play smart and have her on side as much as possible."

Background

Northern Ireland are sitting second bottom of Group C and must win tonight to keep their dreams of qualifying for Euro 2012 on track. The sides drew 1-1 when they met in the reverse fixture last October. Northern Ireland have never qualified for the European Championships.

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