Kate Hoey: Sport NI should recognise Northern Ireland governing bodies

Iain Lewers, an outstanding hockey player from Northern Ireland, had to play for Ireland ' then had to sit out of international competition for three years and take legal action before he became a member of the British team in London
Iain Lewers, an outstanding hockey player from Northern Ireland, had to play for Ireland ' then had to sit out of international competition for three years and take legal action before he became a member of the British team in London

Jim Allister is right about the anti British bias in boxing circles in Northern Ireland (‘Ulster boxing has long been marred by an anti-Protestant sectarianism’, September 23).

Now the Lewis Crocker case has proved what some of us have been repeatedly, saying Sport NI and the Department of Culture, Art and Leisure can no longer be allowed to pass the buck and do nothing.

Letter to the editor

Letter to the editor

After the report from Sandy Row Amateur Boxing Club outlining a decade of sectarian and racial abuse suffered by their young club members was published several years ago, we thought changes would happen.

It didn’t, and many boxing clubs from predominately Protestant areas have been denied funding and the Northern Ireland Boxing Association still not recognised by Sport NI.

But it is not just boxing where the Belfast Agreement and the right of anyone to be British or Irish is ignored.

In many other sports the only way someone from Northern Ireland has a chance to compete in British teams would be to move to live in Great Britain.

Yet they can their passport, choose the kind of school they go to, the type of music they listen to and the sport they watch.

The only thing that they cannot choose in many of our sports is the flag they wish to compete under. Northern Ireland citizens have a right under the Belfast agreement to compete under the British flag.

In tennis, clubs can only affiliate to Tennis Ireland and If Andy Murray had been born in Dundonald rather than Dunblane he would have been ineligible to play in the Davis Cup British team and would have received no funding from

the Lawn Tennis Association which has no jurisdiction here.

The British Amateur Swimming association would love to have Northern Ireland clubs in membership. Swim Ireland refuses and the international swimming governing body recognises Swim Ireland as having jurisdiction over the whole of the island. Sport NI won’t intervene.

In hockey, Iain Lewers, an outstanding player from Northern Ireland, had originally no choice but to play for Ireland — and then had to sit out of international competition for three years and take legal action before he finally became a member of the British team in London.

Some time ago I was accused by a Sinn Fein councillor of being sectarian, because I supported a governing body for Northern Ireland boxing. How on earth is that sectarian, if supporting an all-Ireland one isn’t?

It would seem that standing up to be British in Northern Ireland is portrayed as sectarian, whereas wanting all-Ireland institutions is being ‘inclusive’.

If a youngster from Northern Ireland was denied the chance to be part of a Republic of Ireland team, nationalist politicians would be shouting from the rooftops about discrimination and human rights.

It is quite wrong that any international sports body should have the right to determine which part of the UK is British. It is time for Sport NI to recognise Northern Ireland governing bodies.

Sport can unite people, but only if the rules are fair.

It is time for those politicians who have shied away from the uncomfortable politics of sport in Northern Ireland to stand up and be counted.

Kate Hoey MP, Vauxhall