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History made at hallowed Croke Park

The hierarchy of Ireland's Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) made peace with the British establishment when the Queen set foot on the hallowed turf of its Dublin headquarters.

Hours after paying solemn tribute to Irish soldiers who died serving the Crown in the First World War, she sat on the sidelines of the iconic Croke Park - the site of the original Bloody Sunday, where 14 civilians were shot dead by British forces in 1920.

GAA president Christy Cooney told the Queen her presence made history and honoured the amateur and voluntary organisation and its hundreds of thousands of grassroots members across the globe.

Inside the stadium he told the Queen the visit would underpin and advance peace in Ireland and he vowed that the GAA would continue to reach out to unionists.

He said: "Your presence does honour to our association, to its special place in Irish life, and to its hundreds of thousands of members.

"Today will go down in the history of the GAA."

The massively symbolic gesture at Croke was another step out of history towards reconciliation and built on Tuesday's commemoration of rebel dead and the wreath laying at Islandbridge. The war memorial bore witness to the first royal recognition on Irish soil of the death of almost 50,000 soldiers.

Standing beside the Irish President Mary McAleese for a second day, the two heads of state bowed under flags at half mast in a rarely seen reminder of the Irish who fought for Britain.

But the hugely significant commemoration was surpassed only by the royal tour of Croke Park - the world class GAA venue. An exhibition of its amateur sports, hurling and football, sparked lighter moments as the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh questioned players on the games.

Croke Park was the scene of a massacre by British forces. Inside the ground in November 1920 soldiers killed 14 civilians at a football match - an atrocity which has lingered in the minds of GAA fans ever since, especially on the Hill 16 end terrace and the stand named after a player who died, Tipperary footballer Michael Hogan.


From Belfast Telegraph