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Gerry and Lish at Parliament Buildings

It was a wonderful night. Gerry and Lish came back from the dead as did a few of the old Stormont MPs to tell the story of the fateful Belfast Celtic – Linfield game on Dec 27th, 1948 that changed local football forever.

The legendary Jimmy Jones was there as were many others from the worlds’ of football, theatre, and politics.

Chris Lyttle MLA, Danny Kennedy MLA and I got our hands (probably for the first and last time) on the old Irish Cup which has the names of all the current big clubs as well as Derry City and of course Belfast Celtic on it.

The Irish Times ran a great preview of the event and it was all recorded I am told for BBC TV.

Next week I will welcome an amendment to the Justice Bill which will, for the first time, make sectarian chanting illegal at sporting grounds in our region. It will be a huge step forward from the old Stormont Parliament’s debate on the Windsor Park tragedy in early 1949. Then some MPs were accused of leading a chorus of sectarian chanting at Winsdor Park before the trouble broke out.

That great old cup

It is incumbent on us all to support those in sport, politics, and civil society who are working so hard to eradicate sectarianism from the sport. The IFA’s Football for All is one such initiative.

Huge thanks are due to the writer of the play Padraig Coyle, the Belfast Celtic Society, the IFA and Linfield Football Club who have all seen the great opportunity to build reconciliation through a better understanding of the past.