First Minister Peter Robinson (right) with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (left) and former Tyrone forward Peter Canavan. Paul Faith/PA Wire
Peace Process

NI First Minister Peter Robinson hails GAA for its role in peace-building

The DUP leader was speaking at Queen’s University Belfast where he also condemned recent shootings by by the UVF and republican dissidents.

NORTHERN IRELAND FIRST Minister Peter Robinson said it would have been “unimaginable” a few years ago that he would have given a speech celebrating the role of the GAA in peace-building, but that’s what happened last night.

Speaking at a Co-operation Ireland dinner in Queen’s University Belfast, Robinson said that “the GAA has taken significant decisions that have not only reflected the changing times we live in but more importantly have helped shape them.”

He referenced the 2001 decision from the GAA to drop a ban on members of the security forces playing Gaelic games.  This, he said, took place at a time when “such initiatives from any quarter were rare” .

He said that it is a testament to the progress that has been made that a First Minister from the unionist tradition would be paying tribute to the GAA. “Not so many years’ ago it would have been unimaginable that I would have been invited to speak at an event of this kind – or that I would have accepted,” he said.

Robinson was joined in recognising the positive impact of the GAA by deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness as well a host of GAA figures.

image(First Minister Peter Robinson (left) is welcomed by Tyrone manager Micky Harte. Pic: Paul Faith/PA Wire)

“I am entirely convinced that a shared and united society in Northern Ireland is the only way forward for all of us. Our challenge must be to make what is often merely a sound-bite into a meaningful reality,” he said.

A number of recent shootings in the north have highlighted lingering tensions among some sections of society and Robinson said as part of his speech that there must be no distinction in condemning such murders:

An a la carte approach to the rule of law is not a basis for building the kind of peaceful democratic society that we all want to have. I make no distinction whatsoever between shootings by the UVF and shootings by dissident republicans and I have no reservation, mental or otherwise, in condemning all such activity.

“Anyone who believes that there is a better alternative to the political process we are engaged in simply doesn’t understand reality, ” he said.

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