Brady criticises ‘hypocrisy’ of Irish sporting bodies regarding Israeli games

While welcoming confirmation that a match between a Palestinian side and a League of Ireland side may be played in Ireland, Sinn Féin’s John Brady has accused the FAI of hypocrisy over Irish teams playing Israel during an appearance by the FAI and Sports Ireland at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in Leinster House this week.

Following the meeting Brady said: “It is important to say at the outset that I very much welcome confirmation by the FAI that a match can take place between a Palestinian side and a side from the League of Ireland. This is a very positive development, and one that has the potential to send a much-needed message of solidarity to a much-beleaguered Palestinian people.

In September of last year, following the announcement of UEFA’s decision to allow Russia to re-enter international football at under-17 level, the FAI reacted by stating that Ireland would not play against any Russian team regardless of age.

The statement issued by the FAI at the time was unequivocal in its opposition to UEFA’s decision. At a meeting of the FAI Board last night, it was unanimously agreed to re-affirm our clearly staged position that no representative Ireland teams, at any age group, would play against any team from Russia in any competition at the present time.

There is however a very real accompanying level of hypocrisy here in terms of the FAI’s record of rightly supporting boycotts of Russia but at the same time being openly willing to play against Israel, when Israel is actively engaged in the committal of war crimes against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, where over 30,000 people have already been killed in the Israeli military onslaught.

To hide behind the excuse that they are adhering to UEFA rules is not acceptable. The FAI need to make a case to UEFA in support of a boycott of matches against Israel while attacks against Palestinian civilians continue.

They need to support a boycott of international matches with Israel until we have a sustained humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. This sports hypocrisy is not confined to the FAI.

“Basketball Ireland CEO John Fehan wrote to the International Basketball Federation in 2022 stating we will not fulfil our upcoming FIBA Women’s Qualifiers against Belarus due to their support of Russia in the ongoing war in Ukraine. Our stance is supported by Sport Ireland.”

Yet, just two weeks ago, CEO Fehan said about Israel “Quite frankly, we don’t believe boycotting our matches with Israel will make a blind bit of difference.

What it will do is destroy our women’s international game for ten years.”

There needs to be a consistent and principled approach to the issue of boycott in sport. It can be parsed to privilege one instance of human rights abuses over another.

To support and campaign for a boycott of matches against Russia, a move which I support, but to then fail to apply the same standards against Israel when tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed, and over a million more displaced, suffering from malnutrition, and in danger of starvation is unacceptable, and calls into question the integrity of the sporting bodies involved.”

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