Northern Ireland news

Arlene Foster attendance at Ulster final still up in the air

Will Arlene Foster get to Clones? Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Joanne Sweeney

WHILE Leo Varadkar was making a symbolic journey north to a centre of unionist culture yesterday, the question of whether Arlene Foster will make a similar visit south this month remains unclear.

The DUP leader and former first minister said she will consider attending the GAA's Ulster Football Championship final after welcoming her native Fermanagh's shock semi-final victory over Monaghan last weekend.

"I will consider any invitation that's sent to me," Mrs Foster said of the match on June 24 in Clones, Co Monaghan.

"I understand somebody tweeted me an invitation or a ticket, but of course I haven't been formally invited yet and I'll wait and see what happens."

The DUP has since been maintaining a 'wait and see' stance on any invitation, which would follow visits to GAA matches by former party leader Peter Robinson and former health minister Edwin Poots.

On both occasions the DUP politicians took their seats after the national anthem was played.

The GAA's Ulster Council has said a guest list for the Clones showpiece will not be finalised until the second semi-final between Donegal and Down is completed tomorrow.

Fermanagh GAA vice-chair Phil Flanagan said: "The GAA is an inclusive organisation and members of the GAA would be delighted to see any member of the local community attend the Ulster final to show their support for their team."

The newly-elected chair of Fermanagh & Omagh District Council, Ulster Unionist Howard Thornton, would not be drawn on whether he would attend in his capacity as first citizen.

The Enniskillen councillor said: "Any invitation given to me will be given due consideration.”

Meanwhile, devoted Fermanagh supporter Fr Gary Donegan, based in Tobair Mhuire retreat in Crossgar, said "if Arlene does go I hope she gets the respect she deserves for going".

“This has only happened three times in my lifetime before and this sport is not about religion or politics, it’s open to all.”

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