Call for Northern Ireland to boycott World Cup in Russia rejected

SDLP councillor Declan Boyle called for Northern Ireland to shun the 2018 World Cup in protest against Russia's involvement in Syria
SDLP councillor Declan Boyle called for Northern Ireland to shun the 2018 World Cup in protest against Russia's involvement in Syria

Calls for Northern Ireland to boycott the 2018 World Cup over Russia’s bombing of Syria have been overwhelmingly rejected by Belfast City Council.

SDLP representative Declan Boyle 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 was discussed at the full meeting on Tuesday, stated: “This council notes the slaughter of innocent men, women and children in Syria (Aleppo) and the displacement of millions of people.”

But the proposal was defeated by a huge margin, with five members voting for and 40 against.

Branding the motion “completely bizarre”, DUP Ald Guy Spence told members: “Although the council agrees there is a humanitarian crisis in Syria, and we have taken in refugee families, there is no question that our sports teams are not a tool we can use politically.

“Sport is no place for politics. The Northern Ireland team is something this council and its members need to get behind.”

UUP Ald Jim Rodgers urged Cllr Boyle to withdrawn the motion, adding: “Does anyone think that the home countries along with the Republic of Ireland are going to pay any attention? There is absolutely no way.

“This is going to fall on deaf ears and make this council and this part of Northern Ireland look extremely foolish.”

Sinn Fein Cllr Seanna Walsh described the proposal as “ridiculous” and said: “I would like to take issue with the thrust of this motion. You don’t put people into a corner as a way of bringing about conflict resolution.”

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.