Northern Ireland

Caral Ni Chuilin attends NI game at Windsor Park

Caral Ni Chuilin at windsor park
Image caption Caral Ni Chuilin is the first senior Sinn Fein representative to attend an international soccer match at the venue

The Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin has attended Northern Ireland's game against the Faroe Islands at Windsor Park.

It is the first time that a senior Sinn Fein representative has attended an international soccer match at the venue.

The minister was greeted by the Irish Football Association's top officials.

There was no audible reaction from the crowd as she took her seat.

The Irish Football Association (IFA) asked the minister some weeks ago and she made clear she planned to accept the invite last month.

IFA president Jim Shaw met the minister at the match.

"I think it's another page turned because when you look at it logically we've had four sports ministers, four ministers responsible for sport in the Northern Ireland Assembly," he said.

"We invite to every match the current sports minister and it's no different tonight."

The minister did not take her seat until after the national anthem was played.

'New experience'

Her late arrival in the first half and early departure during the second meant she missed all of Northern Ireland's goals in a 4-0 win over the Faroes.

Ms Ni Chuilin described her visit to Windsor Park as a "new experience" and said she had enjoyed the game.

"I would like to wish them well for the remainder of their fixtures in the Euro 2012 competition and particularly in their next game against Serbia here in September," she said.

"In the past Windsor Park has been the scene of sectarian singing and chanting and I recognise the very real efforts that have been made by the IFA to tackle sectarianism at their matches.

"I hope my attendance contributes further to that effort.

"I look forward to working with the IFA in providing inclusion for all; we still have some way to go despite work done to date."

When she announced she was planning on going to the Euro 2012 qualifier, the sports minister made clear she did not intend to take her seat until after the anthem had been played.

She cited the example of a similar situation three years ago when the then Sports Minister Edwin Poots attended a GAA match for the first time. Mr Poots only arrived after the Irish anthem had been played.

Ms Ni Chuilin said she did not want to be politically insensitive to either community.

More on this story