Northern Ireland's First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson gave the keynote address at a function in Belfast to mark the GAA's contribution to peace-building.
Mr Robinson said his attendance would have been unimaginable a few years ago because of the antagonism that had existed between the GAA and unionists for decades.
He told an audience at Queen's University that respect is the key to progress in Northern Ireland and that understanding is the key to respect.
After almost a year of wrangling of flags and parades, it was a significant speech by Mr Robinson in which he made clear his commitment to power-sharing.
The audience included the GAA's Director General and leading members of its Ulster Council.
Also in attendance were Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, UUP and SDLP leaders, an Alliance Party minister at Stormont and representatives of the Irish, British and US administrations.
The commitment to taking political risks was stated several times.
During his speech, Mr Robinson said: "I want to make progress not just for that section of the community from which I come, but for everyone who inhabits this place we call home.
"I make no distinction whatsoever between shootings by the UVF and shootings by dissident republicans."
Adams welcomes comments
In response, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has circulated details of remarks he will make a weekend event in London.
Mr Adams will say that “Peter Robinson expressed the need for respect and I agree with him completely.”
He will also say that solutions are needed to solve a number of difficult issues in Northern Ireland and he believes it is time to refresh the peace process and this can be done by leaders providing leadership.
The developments will be noted by Richard Haass, the US diplomat who is currently working up his proposals for tackling some of the unresolved political issues in Northern Ireland.