Call for NI to boycott World Cup in Russia ‘mere showboating’

SDLP councillor Declan Boyle has called for Northern Ireland to shun the 2018 World Cup in protest against Russias involvement in Syria
SDLP councillor Declan Boyle has called for Northern Ireland to shun the 2018 World Cup in protest against Russias involvement in Syria

A Belfast councillor has hit out at calls for Northern Ireland to boycott the 2018 World Cup over Russia’s bombing of Syria.

SDLP representative Declan Boyle has proposed a motion urging Northern Ireland and the other Home Nations to stay away from the tournament.

Mr Boyle raised concerns over Russia’s alleged involvement in the bombing of civilians in Syria’s brutal civil war.

His motion, which will be discussed at the next full meeting on Tuesday, January 3, states: “This council notes the slaughter of innocent men, women and children in Syria (Aleppo) and the displacement of millions of people.”

However, UUP councillor Jeffrey Dudgeon said he would not be supporting Mr Boyle’s motion, describing it as “extraneous”.

He added: “I think this motion is exploiting a desperately sad situation.

“It is really just mere showboating and does nothing to help solve the problems in Syria.”

Rejecting Mr Dudgeon’s assertion, Mr Boyle told the News Letter he was ”hopeful” other members of Belfast City Council would give their backing to his motion.

He added: “You only have to watch the TV coverage what is happening in Syria to see the crimes against humanity that are taking place.

“This motion is not, as has been suggested, an attempt at showboating. It is simply trying to draw attention to a very grave situation. Boycotting the World Cup in Russia may only be a small gesture, but if all the nations of these islands took a stand and refused to go to the tournament, it might make some people sit up and take notice.”

The SDLP man’s call for a boycott echoes comments previously made by Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister.

Earlier this year, he said the UK’s football teams should shun the 2018 World Cup because of Russia’s alleged involvement in the bombing of civilians in Syria.

FIFA’s decision to award Russia the right to host the 2018 World Cup has led to much controversy, with concerns over the awarding process, the level of racism in Russian football, the country’s discrimination against gay people, and Russia’s military intervention in the brutal Syrian civil war.

A recent report by Amnesty International concluded that Russian air strikes in the country have killed at least 200 civilians , and said elements of Russia’s bombing campaign could amount to war crimes.

Russia has denied causing civilian deaths in Syria.