Euro 2016: Dublin and Belfast may host receptions for teams
Belfast City Council likely to vote in favour of hosting event despite unionist opposition
Euro 2016: Whereas Martin O’Neill’s team had to rely on a playoff victory to book their Euro 2016 berth, Northern Ireland sailed through their qualification group. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
It appears likely that city halls in Dublin and Belfast will hold receptions for the Irish teams that qualified for Euro 2016 after an SDLP motion passed this morning.
Representatives of Dublin City Council have already contacted both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland teams to arrange a date for a future civic reception to celebrate their achievements in qualifying for Europe’s premier international competition in France next year.
Now councillors in the North appear to be following suit, albeit in the face of considerable opposition from unionists, after this morning’s meeting of the strategic policy and resources committee in Belfast City Council voted 12 to 7 in favour of hosting a similar event.
Whereas Martin O’Neill’s team had to rely on a playoff victory to book their Euro 2016 berth Northern Ireland sailed through their qualification group, thereby setting up a situation where both teams will be present for the tournament for the first time.
Defeat for this morning’s motion would have spelled the end of the proposal, however, with support from Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Alliance Party virtually assured it now seems a formality that Belfast City Council will ratify attempts to hold a reception at its next meeting on January 5th.
SDLP Cllr Declan Boyle first concocted the idea and he says it makes perfect sense considering O’Neill’s close links to Belfast.
“This is about sport, this is a unique situation where you’ve got two managers from the north, you have two teams from this island who have qualified for the Euros.
“Martin O’Neill went to St Malachy’s College which is within a mile of Belfast City Hall. He started off playing football for Rosario which is a youth club on the Ormeau Road, which is a mile and a bit the other way, he captained Northern Ireland,” he said.
Dublin City Cllr Dermot Lacey has also been championing the cause of a joint reception, but he told The Irish Times that it likely won’t be held until after the tournament at the request of both the associations.
Although he hasn’t yet made contact, Mr Boyle is confident that they would also be receptive to such overtures from Belfast.
It had previously appeared that vigorous opposition from unionist councillors would torpedo the initiative, with some suggesting that a British Isles reception involving England and Wales would be more appropriate, and Mr Boyle expressed disappointment at the stance adopted by counterparts in the DUP and UUP.
“I’m just amazed at the stand they took. If someone was caught on the hop on something like this you may say something in a moment of time that you may reflect upon. However this has gone on months, and the attitudes haven’t changed at all.
“The winner of this is sport, that’s what it’s all about,” he said.