SDLP Newry & Armagh MLA Justin McNulty has called for a common sense resolution to a dispute preventing gymnasts from the North competing at the Commonwealth Games.
The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) ruled Rhys McClenaghan, Eamon Montgomery and Ewan McAteer cannot represent the North due to their Irish nationality and registration.
Mr McNulty appealed to the FIG to take the unique circumstances of Irish athletes into account and allow them to compete at the games.
Newry & Armagh MLA Mr McNulty said:
“It’s incredible that three first class athletes who have spent years training and preparing themselves physically and mentally for these games could be prevented from competing because of the unique circumstances on our island. We cannot allow bureaucratic red tape and a lack of understanding to get in the way of the careers of these athletes.
“Issues around identity and nationality on our island are complicated, but thankfully we have the Good Friday Agreement which allows everyone to feel included and represented in our shared home place. Since 1998 international sporting bodies have adapted themselves to the rules that are in place around nationality and I don’t see why the FIG should be any different.
“The suggestion that anyone should need to change their registered nationality to resolve this situation is both ridiculous and insensitive. I see no reason why, especially in light of the backlash to their decision, the FIG cannot accept the right for these athletes to represent the nation of their choosing, in line with other sports. A common sense solution must be found as soon as possible to give these athletes clarity, with the games starting in July. Rhys, Eamon and Ewan are true competitors who have done their country proud and they have my full support in getting this issue resolved.”