The President of Ireland has hailed Derry’s “re-incarnation as a young and vibrant city looking confidently towards a better future.”
President Michael D. Higgins made his remarks when he spoke at the annual congress of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in Derry at the weekend.
During his speech, President Higgins paid tribute to the role played by the GAA in Derry.
He said: “The GAA in Derry has been playing its own important and central role within its many individual communities for almost one hundred and thirty years now, creating numerous memories and weaving itself into the history of Derry towns and villages and the annals of many family lives.
“During that time, it has also, of course, survived much political turbulence and violence, including the recent Troubles during which three hundred and fifty Derry citizens lost their lives.
“The sense of renewed optimism and community solidarity, which is now so palpable in this city, is a transformation in which the Derry GAA has played no small part.”
President Higgins said it was “a particular pleasure” to be in Derry during what is a very special year for the city.
“To be designated the City of Culture for 2013 is a great honour, indeed, but also richly merited,” he said.
“I know that the Derry Gaelic Athletic Association are active participants in this venture, making their own important and unique contribution to the demonstration of Derry’s impressive culture and heritage throughout the year.”
Also speaking at the GAA congress was the North’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness who applauded the organisation for “connecting people not only within our local communities but across the world.”
He added: “The local GAA community, regardless of whether it is in Stockholm, Sydney or San Francisco, offers a warm welcome and a taste of home to our family and friends, footballers, hurlers and camogs who have had to seek employment far from home.
“Although dedicated to promoting the games of hurling, football, handball, rounders and camogie, the Association also supports activities that enrich the culture of our nation and further gaelic ideals, including the Irish language, Irish music and dance.
“In February, Derry hosted the Scór finals and, in August, this city will host Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann. This was a historic decision, with the All-Ireland Fleadh coming to the North for the first time. I’m sure this will not only be an historic Fleadh but also the best one ever.”
Speaking about the significant contribution the GAA makes to society, Mr. McGuinness added: “The impact of the GAA extends beyond the aims of promoting gaelic games. It is the cornerstone of the community, strengthening community development, promoting inclusion and cohesion, providing structured support for volunteers at club and county levels and maintaining and expanding its focus on health, well-being and lifestyle.
“The GAA generates and fosters pride in the community it both serves and enriches.
“It is for the unique and invaluable contribution that you make to our community that we as an Executive consider it right to support GAA activities and the development of Casement Park is an example of our support.”