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Winners of the European Parliament Citizens Prize 2013 come to Brussels

The GAA the first ever Irish winner of the European Citizen’s prize were in Brussels this week. Together with the 43 winners from other member states of the EU, they attended an official event in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday at the European Parliament, where they met EP President, Martin Schulz.  
(Photo shows left to right:  Pat the Cope Gallagher, Joe McDonagh (former GAA President), Sean Kelly and Jim Higgins)

European Parliament President Martin Schulz told the winners: "The Citizen's Prize is exceptionally important for the European Parliament and EU citizens. You men and women represent the best, which is what we need in the European Union more than anything else. Cross-border cooperation is the best solution to our problems. There are growing numbers of voters voting for parties which want to destroy the EU project. You are the real heroes in the fight for EU integration."

Since 2008, the prize has been awarded to citizens or organisations who have contributed to promoting better mutual understanding and closer integration among citizens or to facilitating cross-border or transnational cooperation within the EU. The winners had already received a medal of honour at award ceremonies in their countries

Last week, at the national award presentation, Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Liam Ó Néill accepted the medal of honour from Sean Kelly MEP at an event in Croke Park, Dublin.

Seán Kelly MEP said: “It is of enormous credit to the GAA that it is the first ever Irish winner of the European Citizens' Prize. It not only reflects the great contribution the GAA has made to the Peace Process but it also underlines the massive growth of Gaelic Games on Continental Europe, where they are truly becoming European Games."

During the two-day event in Brussels the winners met the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, and received a diploma. They also attended the opening by Parliament's Vice-President Anni Podimata of an exhibition  presenting the 2013 winners.

The Gaelic Athletic Association / Cumann Lúthchleas Gael is a 32 county sporting and cultural organisation that has a presence on all five continents. It is Ireland's largest sporting organisation and is celebrated as one of the great amateur sporting associations in the world today.

The GAA is a volunteer led, community based organisation that promotes Gaelic games such as Hurling, Football, Handball and Rounders and works with sister organisations to promote Ladies Football and Camogie. It is part of the Irish consciousness and plays an influential role in Irish society that extends far beyond the basic aim of promoting Gaelic games.

After the award ceremony, in Brussels this year's oldest winner, Mr Boris Pahor, a Slovenian writer who celebrates his 100th birthday this year, gave a short speech.

The winners were selected on Wednesday 5 June by a Chancellery in Brussels, chaired by Vice- President Anni PODIMATA (S&D, EL). The Members of the Chancellery are: Vice- Presidents Alexander ALVARO (ALDE, DE), Isabelle DURANT (GREENS/EFA, BE), Othmar KARAS (EPP, AT) and László SURJÁN (EPP, HU), Former EP Presidents Hans-Gert PÖTTERING (EPP, DE) and Enrique BARÒN CRESPO and Annemarie Jorritsma, Co-President of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions, and Peter Matjašič, President of the European Youth Forum.