Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein minister at Windsor Park

Sinn Fein Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin has attended a Northern Ireland international football match in Belfast in a first for her party.

The republican minister only took her seat in the Windsor Park ground, however, after God Save the Queen had been played.

Her decision to watch the team, which has traditionally been more closely supported by the unionist community, matched a similar gesture by the Democratic Unionists.

A previous Sports Minister, the Democratic Unionist Party's Edwin Poots, attended a Gaelic football match as a gesture to the sporting code followed mainly by nationalists.

He arrived after the Irish national anthem was played at the game he attended in Co Down in 2008.

Northern Ireland were playing the Faroe Islands in a Euro 2012 qualifier. The home team won 4-0.

The minister later used her Twitter account to say: "First visit to Windsor Park, enjoyed game, well received, well done."

But the minister's late arrival and early exit from the ground meant she reportedly missed the team's goals.

In a statement issued after the match, the minister said: "When I came into office I said that I would be a minister for all cultures and all sports. Given this, and the fact that a significant section of our community support and participate in IFA (Irish Football Association) organised games, and the IFA receives significant DCAL (Department of Culture Arts and Leisure) funding, it is only proper that I would come along here."

Ms Ni Chuilin, who is a former republican prisoner, attracted controversy recently over her choice of ministerial adviser. Her Stormont aide Mary McArdle was part of an IRA gang that murdered young teacher Mary Travers in an ambush on her father, magistrate Tom Travers, as the family left Mass in 1984.

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