The IFA is going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland to argue that players with no connection to the Republic of Ireland, other than their passports, should not be allowed to play for the FAI football team, rather than Northern Ireland.
Now I’m sure that the Football Association has taken the finest legal advice, but in case Raymond Kennedy reads Three Thousand Versts, let me remind him what we actually need to be arguing, because it is the existing statutes that will be interpreted.
If players who choose to play for Northern Ireland, but hold ROI passports, can only do so because of inferred British nationality, then the IFA will lose. Players who hold dual nationality can choose an international team which represents either nationality.
If players can play for Northern Ireland by virtue of their Republic of Ireland nationality, in conjunction with other territorial requirements, then they are not entitled to play for the Republic if Ireland football team. They are subject to provisions relating to a nationality which entitles you to play for two teams.
It has already been established that Northern Ireland players cannot be compelled to carry a British passport in order to qualify for the international team. Quite right too. The IFA could justly be accused of discrimination if it required its players to acknowledge British citizenship. The Northern Ireland team welcomes players from across the community irrespective of their political allegiance. It always has.
If the IFA is clever it will use the citizenship criteria and the Belfast Agreement to argue that it is in the liberal position. It must be the association arguing that it is illiberal to insist that British citizenship is inferred despite the fact that Republic of Ireland passport holders, who come from Northern Ireland, don’t claim it.