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Protestants urged to join in with GAA

The Sports Minister has encouraged the Protestant community to become involved in Gaelic Games.

Caral Ni Chuilin says that it should not matter what colour, creed, religion or sex you are, insisting that if you want to play a particular sport, you should do so.

The Queen may have been a guest of the GAA at Croke Park recently, but many Protestants throughout the country would still see the GAA as being off limits.

Ni Chuilin says she would like to see that change, however, adding that the GAA deserve high praise for showing strong leadership in recent times, pointing to how the association acted after the murder of young PSNI officer Ronan Kerr, who himself was a keen GAA player.

It was 10 years ago that the GAA abolished the controversial Rule 21 which banned members of the British security forces from playing the sport.

“I think the GAA has come a long way,” said the Minister for Sport.

“Change is never easy, even if instinctively in your gut you know it is the right thing to do. They have shown real leadership, most recently when Ronan Kerr was killed, and should be commended for that.

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“The GAA is the biggest voluntarily organisation in sport and they have done, and continue to do, a great job in their communities which is hugely important.

“I would also encourage the Protestant community to get involved in the GAA.

“It’s my belief that you shouldn’t know who anyone is when they are playing for a team. You are involved because you are passionate about it and whatever your, gender, religion or whatever you should be able to play it.

“I would like to see more people involved in GAA because it is great organisation.”

Ni Chuilin is a big fan of the Antrim football and hurling sides, though her hero comes from camogie.

“My sporting hero would be Jane Adams, the Antrim camogie player.

“She’s a true legend in my mind and is an inspiring figure. She is a young woman, brilliant at her sport, captain of her team and you can see she is well respected by her team-mates, the county board and other players and officials across the country.

“I don’t think enough women are visible in sport.

“And I don’t believe the Antrim camogie team get the credit they deserve for all that they have achieved.”

Another hero for the New Lodge woman is a sporting star who lived beside her when she was growing up, boxing great Paddy Fitzsimmons, who competed in the 1964 Olympics and is now head coach at the Dockers Club.

She says: “It’s what he has done on the ground that has impressed me, the hard stuff, the cross-community stuff and dangerous stuff. For me it’s more what you do off the pitch or out of the ring than what you do on it or in it.

“You may have 60 minutes or 90 minutes to play but it’s the days, months and years of mentoring and supporting people that is more important.”

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