Belfast Telegraph

Juncker gets Gaelic games jersey reflecting European unity as Ireland souvenir

The European Commission President was given a shirt during a visit to Croke Park that featured the number 27 to mark his representing the EU27.

Jean-Claude Juncker received an Irish Gaelic games jersey reflecting European unity on his last day in Ireland.

The European Commission President was handed a Cork shirt with the number 27 in acknowledgement of his role representing the EU27 members.

During his two-day trip to Dublin he has joined other European leaders in pledging the bloc’s solidarity with Ireland over the border uncertainty with Northern Ireland created by Brexit.

As he visited the home of Gaelic games in Ireland, the Croke Park stadium in the capital, that fellowship was reciprocated in a parting gift from the Irish Government.

Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney, who represents part of Co Cork in Ireland’s south, handed Mr Juncker the shirt in his county colours.

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(left to right) Former Kilkenny hurler Henry Shefflin demonstrates for European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Commission President did not try his luck at either Gaelic football or hurling, preferring to leave it to athletes who demonstrated the sport.

Former Kilkenny hurler Henry Shefflin – an All-Ireland medal winner and giant of the sport – and Stacey Cahill, from Kildare, demonstrated their skills amid the hallowed surroundings of Croke Park, a symbol of Irish nationhood.

Of Gaelic games Mr Juncker said: “It is a vocation not a job.”

The future of the Irish border after Brexit is one of the most vexed outstanding issues facing negotiators in Brussels.

European leaders meet in Brussels next week but a deal is not expected to be struck on the divorce’s implications for the 300-mile border with its multiple crossing points until at least another European Council summit in the autumn.

A time-limited “backstop” option agreed in principle but not in detail between Britain and the EU has been interpreted by Europe as meaning Northern Ireland would effectively stay within the bloc’s regulatory rules on issues like customs to preserve the currently invisible and frictionless border arrangements.

Mr Juncker has raised the prospect of Britain leaving without a deal during his visit to Dublin.

He also said no deal was as good as being in the EU as he toured Dublin accompanied by chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

Mr Barnier has warned the European Arrest Warrant, pivotal to North/South policing cooperation, could be among deals under threat.

On Friday President Juncker met Irish president Michael D Higgins at his official residence in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

He complimented Mr Higgins on his “beautiful” home, Aras an Uachtarain, gesturing around the state reception room with its views across the park.

Mr Juncker met Mr Higgins and his wife Sabina and there were warm greetings as he thanked his hosts.

He took Mrs Higgins’ hand and planted a kiss on it, before giving her a kiss on the cheek and signing the visitors’ book.

The trio posed for photographs as Mr Juncker quipped to Mr Higgins: “Present us to the world.”

The pair held a short meeting along with their delegations, including Clara Martinez-Alberola, head of Mr Juncker’s cabinet, Gerard Kiely, head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland, legal adviser Michael Shotter and financial adviser Paulina Dejmek-Hack.

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