ANOTHER DUP politician has attended a GAA match – this time in Dublin.
The Mayor of Ballymoney Ian Stevenson travelled to the Irish capital to lend his support to a local hurling team in the all-Ireland senior club hurling championship.
Mr Stevenson watched Loughgiel beat Na Piarsaigh from Limerick on Saturday, after he received a request from the local GAA club to attend the match in Parnell Park.
The move comes just two weeks after First Minister Peter Robinson attended the Dr McKenna Cup GAA football final in Armagh between Derry and Tyrone.
A spokesman for the DUP said Mr Stevenson had shown leadership in north Antrim, where sectarian tensions have simmered in recent years.
“Mr Stevenson recognises that the people in north Antrim want to move on,” said the party spokesman.
“Throughout his year as mayor in Ballymoney he has worked to improve community relations and this is another step major forward.
“The party leader [Peter Robinson] has said he wants to see an end to the ‘us and them’ mentality and Mr Stevenson has followed through on this policy.”
Mr Stevenson received praise from GAA supporters on social networking site Twitter.
“Fair play to Ian Stevenson DUP, who travelled to watch Loughgiel, his local hurling team, win the All Ireland Senior Hurling Champ SF,” one fan wrote.
Another comment read: “Just a thought, does the DUP mayor get honorary membership of Loughgiel?”
Last summer Mr Stevenson also broke with tradition when he issused a joint statement with a local priest ahead of a controversial parade.
Along with Fr John J Murray he appealed for calm ahead of the contentious march in Rasharkin.
The ‘statement of belief’ before the parade stressed their common beliefs – such as ‘freedom of religion’, opposition to all criminal behaviour and a belief in the 10 Commandments.
Other senior DUP politicians to have attended GAA matches include Edwin Poots and Nelson McCausland.