Northern Ireland news

DUP's Christopher Stalford: Criticism of attending GAA match 'strange'

The DUP's Christopher Stalford and party leader Arlene Foster attending the Ulster GAA final in June
Brendan Hughes

A DUP assembly member who attended a GAA match with party leader Arlene Foster has described criticism they received for going on a Sunday as "strange".

Christopher Stalford joined Mrs Foster in June when she became the first DUP leader to attend the Ulster final.

Their attendance at the match in Clones between Fermanagh and Donegal was warmly welcomed by GAA fans, but there was criticism from some unionists and Protestant church leaders over attending on a Sunday.

DUP councillor John Finlay said it was "extremely upsetting" and Mrs Foster had "no right to publicly flout" the "Lord's Day" as DUP leader.

And Mr Stalford's own church minister, Free Presbyterian Rev Ian Brown, said their attendance caused "incredible angst and offence to Christians who treasure the special nature of God's Day".

In an interview with Slugger TV, part of the Slugger O'Toole website, Mr Stalford said he wanted to show he is "not hostile to any expression of Irish culture or identity".

DUP South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford speaking to Slugger TV

The South Belfast MLA said he was "mindful" of the criticism he received for attending, but found it "strange".

"Some of the people that criticised me for going on a Sunday would never criticise me for sitting in a TV studio on a Sunday, and I've done that," he said.

"Some of the people that criticised me for going on a Sunday, I suspect that after church on a Sunday they would go to a local hotel for something to eat. I just thought that that was strange, the criticism."

DUP South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford speaking to David McCann on Slugger TV

Mr Stalford said he found the experience of attending the Gaelic football final "interesting" and told how he "had to read up on the rules beforehand".

"The people were very welcoming. Lots of them were happy that we were there, and we were given a warm welcome and the officials looked after us, and I enjoyed going to it," he added.

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