Sandra McLellan TD – the need for an all-island soccer team - Ard Fheis 2012
‘Is é seo bliain na hÉirinn’
Euro 2012 fever is upon us. Across the country there is a fantastic sense of national pride and Irish identity. It has brought a sense of thrill to the air.
I have heard many people say “This is the year for Ireland”, and a chairde I fully agree with this statement. This is the year for Ireland, but all 32 counties of it! I firmly believe that there has never been a greater climate for a 32 county national soccer team than there is now.
This has been a long running debate, one which many footballing greats have opined on, including George Best who supported the creation of an All-Ireland team. Other sports have shown maturity and rationale, it’s a pity that soccer does not learn from other sports when one team represents Ireland in such sports like rugby, cricket and international rules. Having one team from Ireland has witnessed the uniting of the entire county in full support of that team. There are no mentions of divisions between North, South, East or West.
An All Ireland Soccer team is something which we in Sinn Féin have continually called for. .Ireland is a small nation, and in order to truly compete in an international arena, we must ensure that we utilise a full pool of talented players. A coming together of the two current partitioned teams will ensure a more competitive team and undoubtedly silverware for Irish soccer and more joy for the fans.
We in Sinn Féin believe that division breeds hostility, and division is the only thing that we are sure to we gain by having two ‘national’ football teams in Ireland.
One possible stepping stone to achieving a thirty-two county national football team is founding an All Ireland soccer league, this issue has been raised before with the vast majority of teams both North and South supporting the idea.
We need to capture the spirit of national reconciliation. We need to ensure that we are the best that we can be. Citizens across the country want Ireland to compete strongly at an international stage. Comrades I believe that an All-Ireland National team is quiet simply the best option for Ireland to achieve greatness.