Call for IFA to back off on nationality dispute
Sinn Féin councillor, Paul Butler, has warned the Irish Football Association "to step back from putting obstacles in the way of nationalists opting to represent the Republic of Ireland at international football level or run the risk of being labelled anti-Agreement unionists."
Cllr Butler said:
"Nationalists in the north of Ireland- like their fellow countrymen and women across the island - give their allegiance to the Irish football team based in Dublin which plays under the Irish flag and accompanying anthem of the Irish nation.
"Nationalists do not seek to deny unionists the right to support or play for the team of their choice- Northern Ireland- and nor should nationalists be denied, or face obstacles, in attaining their dream of representing their country at international level.
"Sinn Féin is greatly concerned by the actions of IFA Chairman, Howard Wells, in contacting FIFA after a number of young nationalists exercised their right to opt to play for the Republic of Ireland.
"In the past, there has been great anger caused in the nationalist community by political pronouncements from the Irish Football Association, not least when former IFA figure David Bowen expressed his 'annoyance' at "the ease" with which northern nationalists could obtain Irish passports.
"There must be no confusion on this matter, and no private lobbying from the IFA to deter representatives of the Football Association of Ireland from either selecting or approaching young players in the six counties who may wish to represent their country at international level.
"On this matter, the IFA must send out a clear message that it will respect the rights of nationalists and not seek to obstruct or impede young nationalists from fulfilling their dream." ENDS