Northern Ireland

DUP deputy first minister Emma Little-Pengelly tries out hurling during visit to GAA club

Stormont leaders paid a visit to St Paul’s GAC in west Belfast after DUP education minister visited an Irish medium school

Emma Little-Pengelly has a go at hurling alongside Michelle O'Neill at St Paul's GAC in west Belfast
Emma Little-Pengelly has a go at hurling alongside Michelle O'Neill at St Paul's GAC in west Belfast

Stormont’s DUP deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly has hailed the importance of “positive leadership” as she visited a GAA club in west Belfast.

Ms Little-Pengelly was joined at St Paul’s GAC by First Minister Michelle O’Neill who denied that the pair were involved in “gesture politics”.

Since the Stormont power-sharing Executive was restored last month, its leaders have taken part in a number of politically symbolic engagements.

Sinn Fein’s Ms O’Neill visited a childcare facility on the Shankill Road and also attended her first Northern Ireland football match at Windsor Park.

Earlier on Wednesday, DUP Education Minister Paul Givan spoke some words of Irish during a visit to an Irish language medium primary school.

During their visit to St Paul’s, the Stormont leaders met with children at the club and took part in both camogie and handball.

Ms Little-Pengelly, who confirmed it was her first visit to a GAA club, said she and Ms O’Neill had spoken about setting the tone as political leaders.

She said: “We wanted to get out there, we want to show we are very much here to be the First Minister and deputy First Minister representing everyone throughout Northern Ireland.

“I gave that commitment on the very first day. I will be there being the champion for all of the people of Northern Ireland in whatever way that we can.

“We know it’s about delivery. We are very conscious of that and we are working on the programme for government at the moment.

“But we do believe that positive leadership is really, really important as well, and that is what we are trying to do.”

She added: “I am really glad to be here, I am looking forward to learning more about some of the sports that are being played.

“It is a great thing to get out there, have some new experiences and learn from each other and that is the way forward”

Ms O’Neill denied they were involved in “gesture politics”.

She said: “We are into leadership and that means you lead from the front and that means you also step outside your own comfort zone, what you know well.

“We are tasked with leadership together and we are determined to do that.

“Some might want to call that gesture politics, but by and large I think people find it as a positive and welcome development.”

The pair were joined during the engagement by junior ministers Pam Cameron and Aisling Reilly.

St Paul’s is Ms Reilly’s home club, and the former world handball champion instructed Ms O’Neill and Ms Little-Pengelly in the sport, as well as in camogie.