DUP leader Arlene Foster attends Ulster GAA football final and stands for Irish national anthem
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DUP leader Arlene Foster attends Ulster GAA football final and stands for Irish national anthem

ARLENE FOSTER has today become the first unionist politician to attend the Ulster GAA senior football final.

The MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, who grew up in the Erne County, watched as Fermanagh lost out to Donegal in the Ulster football showpiece, losing 2-18 to 0-12.

However Foster admitted some people ‘may be uncomfortable’ with her attending a GAA game, which took place on a Sunday.

Applause

The DUP leader received a round of applause as she entered St Tiernach’s Park in Clones, Co. Monaghan.

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She was accompanied by Christopher Stalford, DUP MLA for South Belfast, and Irish Enterprise Minister Heather Humphreys, Fine Gael TD for Cavan-Monaghan.

Foster, who served as First Minister before the collapse of the devolved government at Stormont, even stood for Amhrán na bhFiann, the Irish national anthem, before the game.

As she took her seat in front of Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill, the two could be seen laughing together, even posing for a selfie later on.

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Speaking before the throw-in, Foster thanked the Ulster Council for the warm welcome she had received, adding that her attendance was an important step in achieving a shared society.

Respect and tolerance

“I do realise that there are some people who may be uncomfortable with me being here on a Sunday,” said Foster, “but let me say this – I am the leader of a political party that wants to have a shared society in Northern Ireland.

“To do that we have to take steps forward, to do that we also have to build a respect and a tolerance and that’s what I want to do.

“I hope that others will take the chance to step forward as well, to understand and appreciate and tolerate another culture perhaps that isn’t theirs.”

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Deputy Sinn Féin leader O’Neill praised Foster’s attendance at the event.

“Mary Lou McDonald and I met recently with Prince Charles in order to demonstrate our desire to reach out and respect those across our community of a unionist and British identity,” She said.

“We recognise the important significance of Arlene Foster as DUP leader attending today’s Ulster final and acknowledge and very much welcome her decision to do so.

“She has encouraged others to step forward as well to understand, appreciate and respect another culture perhaps that isn’t theirs in the context of building an inclusive society.

“There is an onus on all in political leadership to build on these recent initiatives and do more together if we want to be successful in bringing about a society underpinned by inclusion.”

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Peter Robinson, Foster’s predecessor as DUP leader and First Minister, previously attended a GAA game.

Accompanied by then Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Robinson attended the Dr McKenna Cup final between Derry and Tyrone in Armagh in 2012.

On social media, some argued that Foster's attendance was a hollow gesture, however others countered that the North can't move on until such gestures are made.

Others took issue with a unionist politican attending a sporting event on a Sunday, however the overriding response was positive.

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