Concerns over 'poaching' of Northern Ireland football players raised by DUP

Michael O'Neill
Michael O'Neill

Concerns have been expressed in Parliament over the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) "poaching" Northern Ireland-born players.

Five Democratic Unionist Party MPs have backed a parliamentary motion which states the FAI must send out a clear message that "boundary lines will be respected and honoured".

It was tabled in the House of Commons by Jim Shannon (Strangford) and follows a row which emerged earlier this month after Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill claimed the FAI "only ever" targets Catholics to play for the Republic.

O'Neill, himself a Catholic, later denied attacking the FAI and said it has broken no rules in approaching young Northern Ireland players to request they switch allegiance to the Republic.

But he raised concerns over approaches to those players who have chosen to represent Northern Ireland at under-17, under-19 or under-21 level.

James McClean, Shane Duffy and Darron Gibson are among those who have exercised their right to play for the Republic's senior team having represented Northern Ireland at youth team level.

Mr Shannon's early day motion (EDM) states: "That this House expresses concern over the pursuit of Northern Ireland (NI) born football players by the Football Association Ireland; and calls for the chief executive of the FAI, John Delaney, to send out a clear message that there will be no poaching of NI players, that the boundary lines will be respected and honoured, and that the game will be played fairly and within the rules."

Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley), Paul Girvan (South Antrim), Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) and David Simpson (Upper Bann) have also signed the motion.

An EDM is a formal motion submitted for debate in the House of Commons, although very few are actually debated.