Team NI gymnasts excluded from Commonwealth games over Ireland representation

Rhys McGlenaghan is among those that have been barred.

Three gymnasts selected to compete in the Commonwealth Games have been banned because they had previously represented Ireland.

The Northern Ireland organising committee has hit out at the decision saying it is at odds with previous games and disregards the unique situation in Northern Ireland.

Eamon Montgomery, Ewan McAteer and Rhys McGlenaghan have been barred by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) from competing at the upcoming event in Birmingham.

According to Commonwealth Games Northern Ireland (CGNI), the body which organises NI's participation in the Games, they have been excluded because all three athletes routinely compete for Ireland at FIG tournaments.

NI does not participate in FIG tournaments.

Both McAteer and McGlenaghan have represented Northern Ireland at the 2018 Commonwealth games.

McGlenaghan won a gold medal for NI on the Pommel at that event.

CGNI accused FIG of "completely disregarding the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the unique situation pertaining to Northern Ireland".

CGNI also point out that the other sports at the Commonwealth games do not impose the same restrictions.

Sport NI said it has given in its full backing to the gymnasts and offered their full support to CGNI's attempts to have the decision overturned.

Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown said "Northern Ireland is a place of complex identities", and that it was important for sporting bodies to accommodate and recognise this.

"In the past decade Sport NI has worked with partners to ensure sport shows equal flexibility to accommodate and afford our local athletes the widest possible opportunity to compete," she said.

“At international level, most competitions see our local athletes choose to compete for either Team Great Britain, or Team Ireland.

"The Commonwealth Games is a welcome opportunity for Northern Ireland athletes, whatever their community background or political opinion, to represent their region, and we have a proud history of them doing so.

"The ruling by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) does not respect the unique circumstances or complexity of identity within Northern Ireland, and we fully support the Commonwealth Games NI in its efforts to have this decision overturned. “We will also be using our relationships with colleagues in Great Britain to ensure the wider sporting community recognises this decision serves the interests of no-one.” It is not uncommon for athletes who represent Ireland in other events to represent Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games.

Irish boxer Paddy Barnes won a gold medal for Northern Ireland at the 2014 edition of the event.

He complained afterward that the NI anthem at the Games, Danny Boy, was "not my anthem".

FIG has been approached for comment.

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