First Minister Arlene Foster and Sports Minister Paul Givan joined the Northern Ireland football team tonight as they received a heroes’ welcome on their return home from Euro2016.
At the official homecoming event at the Belsonic Fan Zone site at Titanic Quarter, thousands of fans welcomed the team back to Belfast with resounding cheers.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “I want to congratulate Michael O’Neill and his players for creating history in France by securing Northern Ireland’s first ever appearance at a European Championship.
“I am immensely proud of each and every member of the team. Reaching the last 16 was a major achievement for Michael and his players. It gave people throughout Northern Ireland amazing shared experiences, pride and memories that will stay with us for a very long time.
“The professionalism of Michael and his team shone through at Euro 2016. The dedication and camaraderie within the squad and the bond between players and supporters has been truly remarkable.
“I pay special tribute to our Green And White Army who won friends from across Europe with their good humour, spirit and banter.
“Our team and our fans were a fantastic advertisement for all that is great about Northern Ireland and I commend them all.”
Sports Minister Paul Givan said: “This vibrant homecoming reflects the pride and delight that has been felt across Northern Ireland as the team qualified and competed in Euro2016. Michael O’Neill and his players have displayed great spirit and determination during their historic time in France and have been an inspiration. Tonight’s homecoming event is an opportunity to honour the team and celebrate their achievements.”
Speaking about the support for the Northern Ireland football team, Minister Givan said: “The green and white army who travelled to France have supported the team with loyalty, passion and enthusiasm. The friendliness and cheerfulness of our fans has been noted around the world, making them great ambassadors for our country. This positive support for the team has been shared by people at home. It is not only natural football fans who have taken an interest. Right across Northern Ireland and the world, people have been in awe of our team and fans.”
Patrick Nelson, Chief Executive of the Irish FA said: “The support from the fans and supporters has been phenomenal and tonight’s event has been a wonderful and fitting end to an incredible journey. On behalf of the Irish FA, the team and Michael O’Neill, I would like to say a massive heartfelt thank you to everyone who supported us and to the Department for Communities, who in conjunction with Belfast City Council and Belsonic, put on a fantastic homecoming celebration.”
The Department for Communities in conjunction with the Irish FA, Belsonic and Belfast City Council hosted the homecoming event.