Belfast Telegraph

GAA pledge 'warm welcome' for Queen

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II will be steeped in the traditions and history of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in an historic visit to Croke Park.

The GAA pledged to give her a warm welcome to the 82,000-seater stadium - the scene of the massacre of 14 civilians by British soldiers in 1920.

The GAA, an amateur organisation set up in 1884 to promote Irish culture, language and sports, said it wanted to showcase the arena.

"We believe that this request reflects and acknowledges the special place of the GAA in the life and history of the nation," the organisation said. "We are confident that this historic visit to Croke Park will be welcomed by those who play, administer and support our games, at home and abroad, including of course throughout Britain."

The GAA also said it hoped the visit would foster greater interest in its ancient games from Unionists.

The landmark stadium on Dublin's northside is a world renowned symbol of the strength of an amateur organisation with a presence in every village and townland in Ireland.

Its famous terrace, Hill 16, is also rumoured to have been built with the rubble from the 1916 Easter Rising.

History was made at Croke Park four years ago when the stadium opened its turnstiles to tens of thousands of Irish and English rugby fans for a Six Nations clash, after gaelic grounds had been closed to so-called "foreign sports" for decades.

There were weeks of public debate over whether the British national anthem should be played at the game and concerns the match would be disrupted by hardline republicans but there was no trouble.

The Association said the visit would give its President, Christy Cooney, the opportunity to convey to the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh a sense of its history and values and its unique and leading place in Irish society.

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