Sinn Fein MLA brands Michael O’Neill remarks ‘divisive and unnecessary’

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Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney has called on Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill to withdraw comments made about young footballers who are recruited to play for the Republic squad.

O’Neill claimed the Republic’s governing body only approaches Catholic players with a view to switching allegiance.

READ MORE: Michael O’Neill: NI manager’s dismay over ‘Catholic only’ FAI player poaching

The Foyle MLA labelled O’Neill’s remarks “both divisive and unnecessary”.

And he called on the Irish Football Association (IFA) to “publicly refute” the comments.

“The Good Friday Agreement protects the right of every citizen in the north to assert their own identity and citizenship,” Mr McCartney added.

“Irish footballers in the north who are afforded the honour to represent their country should not be subjected to comments of this nature.

“If Michael O’Neill is concerned with the inability of the IFA to attract Irish players, he must first acknowledge its chronic lack of accommodation for the Irish identity.

“Irish players are denied their national anthem, their national flag, and are often the subject of fan chants in Windsor Park which target Irish players and their identity.