3,000 Antrim Gaels calling for the establishment of a Citizens' Assembly on Irish unity have hailed a commitment by the Seanad to support their call as “a stepping stone”.
The backing of Ireland's second house came about after Independent Senator Frances Black proposed an amendment to a Fianna Fáil motion on the Good Friday Agreement.
Discussing how the idea for the letter came about, former Antrim senior footballer Paddy Cunningham said: “Jane Adams and I have been friends for many years now both in a sporting sense and through business. We are very conscious of the impact of Brexit within society and within business.
“We met for coffee and discussed our own personal feelings on the issue then we went back to our clubs and friend groups. It was evident that our frustrations at the lack of planning for constitutional change were widespread.
“From that we formulated a working group which included our Antrim starting 15. It snowballed from there.”
Paddy Cunningham says he was astounded at the speed of the response. “We didn’t see it becoming so big and grand so quickly," he said. "We believe that the GAA as a 32 county organisation has a massive role to play in the discussion about the future shape of our island and the growing calls for a poll on Irish unity. We want to be involved in these conversations and formulate opinions going forward and we hope this will be a catalyst for other counties to come on board.”
All-Ireland winner and former camogie All Star Jane Adams added: “We have the template there and we hope that other counties would like to use it.
“For us, the letter is about giving Gaels the platform to engage in the conversation and we hope that the letter will be starting point to encourage and develop meaningful conversations among most Gaels. It highlighted the need for the Irish Government to begin planning for constitutional change."
And the pair say they're optimistic that the Antrim initiative will inspire other counties to follow their lead on the call for a New Ireland. 
“We have seen the establishment of various types of forums across the country in recent years to provide a platform for debate and discussion," says Jane. “This letter was our way to engage in that debate and we would love to see other Gaels adopting similar methods. If any of them needed any help, then myself and Paddy would be delighted to assist them."
“The GAA is in the heart of communities and our members come from all different political persuasions and none. This is where the meaningful debate becomes a reality.
“Everyone within the organisation is entitled to have their own opinion and if we discuss it within a forum for meaningful debate then it broadens the conversation.”
Welcoming the backing of the SDLP and Sinn Féin, Paddy said: “The reaction which we have received far and wide has been overwhelming. We were delighted to receive the endorsement of Colum Eastwood and Mary Lou McDonald but this is very much Gael on Gael.
“I have been contacted by multiple people who were very encouraged and are keen to get involved. I think it is important to note that we are not asking for anything that hasn’t already been agreed.
“23 years ago the Good Friday Agreement was signed and I think time has dramatically changed since then.
“The people at that time embraced the agreement and myself and Jane are the outworkings of that. As a father of three children, I would hope that in 25 years time Ireland would be a in a totally different place for my children.
“I feel that there would be great benefits to an all-Ireland education system, an all-Ireland economy and health system. That can only be achieved through cross-border communication and a Citizens' Assembly on the issue of Irish reunification going forward."