Sporting Events: Representation

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th September 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Kate Hoey Kate Hoey Labour, Vauxhall 12:00 am, 5th September 2018

If she will take steps with Cabinet colleagues to ensure people of Northern Ireland have the right to choose to compete in sporting events for the UK or the Republic of Ireland.

Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

The people of Northern Ireland have a proud history of sporting achievements gained while representing both the United Kingdom and Ireland. It is for individual athletes, subject to the rules of their respective sport’s governing body, to decide which country they wish to represent. This Government are wholly supportive of this choice being maintained.

Photo of Kate Hoey Kate Hoey Labour, Vauxhall

The Minister is, as he knows, quite wrong. A young Northern Ireland sportsperson who wishes to, for example, box for the United Kingdom has to move to Great Britain; otherwise, they have to box for Ireland. That is the case in other sports, too. The Belfast agreement said that everyone had the right to choose to be British or Irish. Surely this must apply to sport, and the Minister must do more about this because it is just not fair.

Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

First, I pay tribute to the hon. Lady, who I know has taken a passionate interest in this subject; we have talked about it before. She will of course be aware that Northern Ireland has won serious medals at the Commonwealth games for boxing. The issue itself is a devolved matter, and is also an issue for individual athletes and their governing sporting bodies to take up. As far as the boxing association of Northern Ireland is concerned, I suggest that it continues its dialogue with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Conservative, North West Leicestershire

Does the Minister agree that all sportsmen and women should have the right to represent the country they choose to, as long as they meet the eligibility criteria for that country?

Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

As I say, if people have the merit to represent their country, there is no reason why they should not, subject to the rules of the governing body of their sport.