Sinn Féin Leader in the Seanad, Seanadoir Niall Ó Donnghaile, has welcomed comments by the Minister for Sport in favour of removing an unfair rule which blocks athletes in the north representing Ireland at some athletics fixtures.
The World Athletics’ political boundary rule dating back to 1934 blocks athletes in Ireland from representing Ireland the nation, at European and world championships if they are from the north.
The measure means athletes do not have the choice to represent Ireland if they wish to, and runs contrary to the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.
Seanadoir Ó Donnghaile said:
“All qualifying athletes on this island who wish to represent Ireland should be able to do so. The political boundary rule is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement; it discriminates against athletes who want to represent Ireland.
“World Athletics should grant a derogation from the political boundary rule to the island of Ireland. This would remove the current unfair rule. This is about respecting people’s identities and their right to an Irish identity.
“Minister Jack Chambers’ comments this morning in the Seanad in a Commencement Matter in his support for a derogation of this unfair rule were encouraging. I welcome his contribution on this matter. In particular his assurance that he shared the objectives of those seeking a derogation from the political boundary rule; which he said was a shared position between both jurisdictions on the island; that he supported athletes from all parts of Ireland having the choice to decide who to represent at international competitions and that fostering dialogue between officials from Sport Ireland, Athletics Ireland, Athletics Northern Ireland and Sports Northern Ireland, was essential in taking the matter further.
“Minister Chambers said he had spoken directly to Lord Seb Coe, the President of World Athletics, and made his position clear to President Coe and that he wanted to see the matter advanced.
“The Minister’s intervention is timely and an important contribution to the growing conversation around this issue. I am determined to see progress on this issue and will continue to follow up with the Minister on ways that we can advance these objectives.
“Our athletes do us proud, as they represent us on the world stage and act us role models for local communities. It is right that they should have the choice to represent their own country.”