Northern Ireland athletes set for a heroes’ welcome
Northern Ireland's Commonwealth Games champions will return home tonight to a heroes’ welcome.
As the most controversial Games of recent years concluded last night in a powerful, sometimes nationalistic ceremony in Delhi, Northern Ireland’s sports men and women — who notched up a total of 10 medals — will touch down in Belfast later today.
Dozens of family and friends will be there to greet them as they land, bringing home their historic victory, which includes three gold medals.
Boxers Paddy Barnes, Paddy Gallagher and Eamonn O’Kane firmly set their names in the sporting history books by winning gold in the Commonwealth ring for the first time in 16 years.
The winning spree continued with boxers Tommy McCarthy and Steven Ward knocking a silver medal each into the bag, while marksmen David Calvert and Matthew Hall both won bronze.
Bowling star Gary Kelly brought home another bronze, cyclist Wendy Houvenaghel won the silver in the women’s individual pursuit, and fellow cyclists Martyn Irvine and Philip Lavery brought home a bronze in the men’s team race.
While the squad of 80 athletes will be returning home on a high tonight, there will be no formal celebrations for them when they land.
Belfast City Council last night confirmed they intend to arrange a reception for the sporting heroes, but because of “a number of practical considerations” this could not be organised for tonight.
A spokeswoman said: “The council is happy to play its role in marking the success of the team and will work to find an agreed and appropriate approach.”
The Office for the First Minister and Deputy First Minister said there were currently no plans to host a celebration at Stormont.
However the team were praised by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.
Congratulating the boxers and the entire team, Mr Robinson said they had “shown the sporting excellence which exists among our people and given us all an example of what can be achieved through hard work, dedication, grit and skill”.