Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster’s Gaelic football final visit step to powersharing, says Sinn Fein

The DUP leader saw her native Fermanagh play neighbouring county Donegal in the Ulster Final and stood for the Irish national anthem.

Arlene Foster’s visit to a Gaelic football final helps create the atmosphere to restore powersharing in Northern Ireland, the president of Sinn Fein said.

Mary-Lou McDonald called for more action from the British and Irish governments to break the long-lasting stalemate.

Her DUP counterpart Mrs Foster was warmly applauded by GAA fans as she joined them in Clones, Co Monaghan, in the Irish Republic on Sunday to watch her native Fermanagh play neighbouring county Donegal in the Ulster Final and stood for the Irish national anthem.

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DUP Leader Arlene Foster walks past Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill at the Ulster final (Niall Carson/PA)

Ms McDonald said: “All of these gestures are crucially important, they are about reaching out the hand of friendship across the community.

“They are about demonstrations of respect and courtesy and friendship and I want to commend her for that.

“I want to say that gestures are more than tokenism, gestures have to then give expression to real political change and advancement. To get the institutions back up and running we need good will, we need the right atmosphere.

“I think yesterday Arlene contributed to that and then the issues that are outstanding need to be resolved.”

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DUP Leader Arlene Foster and Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach Joe McHugh (right) at the Ulster final (Niall Carson/PA)

Mary-Lou McDonald helped launch a party initiative on sectarianism in Ardoyne in North Belfast and said there should be zero tolerance and no alibis given for the divisive prejudice.

“When something is broken you roll up your sleeves and you fix it.”

She looked forward to the day when Stormont institutions were re-established.

“They are essential for good governance here in the north, essential for delivering for people who live in the north and they are also an essential platform for the very thing we have been discussing in terms of fending off and facing down sectarianism.”

Sinn Fein members met the Prince of Wales during his recent trip to Northern Ireland and the Republic in their own gesture designed to reach out to unionists.

Meanwhile, the first Ulster Unionist elected to Ireland’s Seanad urged Northern Ireland’s politicians to lead by example.

Ian Marshall, a former head of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) and the Taoiseach’s nomination for Ireland’s upper house, said the silent majority wanted change.

Inflaming situations by playing to your audience has no place today Ian Marshall, ex-head of Ulster Farmers' Union

“Inflaming situations by playing to your audience has no place today.

“We need politicians, community leaders, church leaders and individuals to choose words carefully and lead by example.

“To send out the message to their groups and followers that working together is a demonstration of strength and not weakness and that it’s not disrespectful to your culture to embrace others.”

Former Stormont first minister Mrs Foster became the first DUP leader to attend the Gaelic Athletic Association’s showpiece Ulster Final.

She said she was aware of the significance of her appearance at a game synonymous with the nationalist tradition and that she led a political party that wants a shared society.

Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill said: “Gestures are important in terms of sending out a very strong signal of intent.

“We will continue to stretch ourselves today, tomorrow, the day after, the day after that to build a society that is free from sectarianism.”

She added: “Confronting sectarianism is certainly not a spectator sport, it is a call to action.”

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