Northern Ireland news

Another three Ulster GAA counties join calls for taoiseach to kickstart conversations about future of 'agreed shared Ireland'

Paddy Bradley is among the Derry gaels to back the campaign. Picture by Mal McCannn

ANOTHER three Ulster GAA counties have joined calls for the taoiseach to kickstart conversations about the future of an "agreed shared Ireland".

An open letter to Micheál Martin has been signed by gaels in Derry, Armagh and Tyrone.

It comes just weeks after prominent figures in Gaelic games in counties Antrim and Fermanagh also backed a campaign for the Irish government to begin planning for future of the island.

The same letter was issued by a group of Antrim Gaels, including former Antrim senior footballer Paddy Cunningham, All-Ireland winner and former camogie All Star Jane Adams, ex-hurling All Star Terence McNaughton and former footballer and Motor Neurone Disease campaigner Anto Finnegan.

Leading figures in Fermanagh also backed the initiative, including Gaelic football manager and Fermanagh's first All Star Peter McGinnity and the county's only two-time All Star Barry Owens and Fermanagh-born priest Fr Gary Donegan.

Now several high-profile Tyrone GAA stars, such as All Star Ronan McNamee and young footballer Antoin Fox, have signed the letter to the taoiseach as well as Armagh gaels, including footballer Aaron Kernan, All Star Aidan O’Rourke and ladies footballer Aimee Mackin.

The letter calls for the establishment of an All-Island Citizens Assembly "reflecting the views of citizens north and south to achieve maximum consensus on a way forward".

"It is the responsibility of the Irish government to ensure that the democratic rights of all citizens are respected and protected, regardless of where they live on the island," it states.

It adds: "As Irish citizens, we believe that the future prosperity and well-being of all citizens on our island will be best upheld living in equality together in an agreed shared Ireland.

"Conversations are taking place across society regarding what shape our island will take in the coming period. They are also happening at every level amongst the GAA community.

"We want the Irish government to take the lead in planning these discussions and planning for the future."

Former Derry player Paddy Bradley is among the gaels in his county to back the campaign.

"There is a huge debate at the moment around Brexit and an All Ireland and with the GAA being so popular and in every county and province, we feel it is a good mechanism to get the message out there," he told the Irish News.

"Each club in our county has already received lots of backing, it has been well received.

"The big thing is that people don't want to be left behind.

"We need the taoiseach to know that we want our voices to be heard and we are trying to get that message across."

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