Belfast Telegraph

Standing ovation for Lady Hermon from GAA

by Chris McCann

A North Down GAA club was the rare setting for a rapturous welcome for one unionism’s most elegant figures last week.

Local MP Lady Sylvia Hermon — formerly of the UUP, now an independent — was given a standing ovation while guest of honour at St Paul’s GAA club’s annual dinner.

The GAA described her as a “lady in every sense of the word” as her popularity soared among all who were in attendance.

The Holywood club also used the occasion to make a special presentation to PSNI member Peadar Heffron, who was almost killed in a car bomb planted by dissident republicans earlier this year.

Speaking to the Community Telegraph shortly after the night, Lady Hermon said:

“The warmth of the welcome and the great hospitality shown to me on Friday evening were absolutely tremendous.

“No wonder I thoroughly enjoyed the whole event, and felt particularly honoured to have been present for the very poignant presentation to Peadar Heffron.”

Mr Heffron is a former St Paul’s player and was at the annual bash with his wife.

His right leg was amputated just days after the bomb exploded under his car in Randalstown on January 8.

The Catholic constable is an Irish language specialist for the PSNI and is also the captain of its GAA team.

Kevin Bell, of the GAA’s Central Council Delegate and the Down County Board, praised St Paul’s for “recognising the atrocity” and had kind words for the North Down MP, Lady Hermon.

“She was a lady in every sense of the word and went down so well. She received a standing ovation, as did Peadar Heffron.”

Mr Bell added that people were ‘moving on’ and said that everyone was welcome at GAA events.

“This is not the first time a unionist has attended a GAA event. Last year, Edwin Poots was at a game and that went well; John McCallister, now deputy leader of the UUP, also.

“We have a good relationship with all politicians.

“We welcome all creeds to our games — everyone is welcome.

“We are now coaching in non-Catholic schools and at the recent Aussie Rules game at Croke Park in Dublin we had a young cross community group from Carrickfergus at the game.

“The GAA is a community-based organisation and we want the whole community involved,” added Mr Bell.

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