DUP leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness strengthened their ministerial co-operation today by sending a joint letter of congratulations to Ireland’s World Cup cricket team.
The Democratic Unionist and Sinn Fein leaders, once sworn enemies, have astonished many with their smooth advancement together towards taking charge of the North’s new power-sharing administration.
In a further show of their ability to do business, Mr Paisley, who will become First Minister when the Stormont regime returns next month, and Mr McGuinness, set to take over as Deputy First Minister, joined forces to recognise the Irish side’s achievements in the Caribbean.
The pair also issued an invitation for the team to attend a reception at Parliament Buildings in Belfast on their return.
Mr Paisley said: “This is a marvellous achievement. I warmly congratulate the team and pay particular tribute to the Northern Ireland players and their manager, Ulsterman, Roy Torrens.
“They have firmly put local cricket on the map. Qualifying for the tournament itself was tremendous, but making the Super Eight stage was nothing short of remarkable.
“This is a real boost for grass roots cricket locally and a big encouragement for young people to take up the game.”
Unlike England, whose performances in the West Indies were disastrous, Ireland provided some of the biggest shocks of the tournament by beating Test playing nations Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Their achievements have seen the side reach full one-day international status.
As the team, made up of players from both sides of the Irish border, alongside Australian and South African-born squad members, prepared for its final Super Eight clash against Sri Lanka in Grenada, Mr McGuinness joined the praise.
The Mid Ulster MP, an avid cricket fan, said: “Irish teams and their supporters are world renowned for their willingness to celebrate our sporting successes.
“When these are achieved against the odds and confound all expectations it makes them all the sweeter.
“I am of course particularly delighted to have seen the contribution made to the teams success of local players Jeremy Bray, Peter Gillespie, Kyle McCallan and Andrew White.”