Sunday 25 September 2016

Belfast City Council votes to host joint reception for Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland ahead of Euro 2016

Rebecca Black

Published 05/01/2016 | 22:17

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill and Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill
Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill and Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill

Belfast City Hall has voted to host joint civic reception for both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland football teams after a heated debate.

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Earlier on Tuesday evening just five loyalist protesters turned up to demonstrate against the proposal.

A spokesman for the Protestant Coalition group told the Belfast Telegraph that while they had publicised the protest, they had not organised it, adding they did not know who had organised it.

The reception targeted by the protest was proposed by SDLP councillor Declan Boyle to congratulate the Republic's and Northern Ireland's football teams on qualifying for the European Championship this year.

The Northern Ireland team already attended a function at City Hall following their qualification.

It is the first time in history that the two sides have qualified at the same time and under managers who are both from Northern Ireland.

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SDLP councillor Declan Boyle proposed inviting both teams to the civic reception.

Some unionists opposed this, with PUP leader Billy Hutchinson claiming that inviting the Republic team to Belfast could spark scenes similar to those which took place during the flag protests after the Union Jack stopped flying at City Hall all-year round.

At a meeting of the strategic policy and resources committee on December 18, councillors discussed Mr Boyle's proposal.

The DUP's Brian Kingston and Christopher Stalford proposed instead that the Lord Mayor should write to the English, Welsh and Republic of Ireland football teams offering congratulations for qualifying for the European Championships.

This was rejected following a vote.

Next, Alliance councillors Nuala McAllister and Michael Long proposed that the committee adopt Mr Boyle's motion, but instead of a civic dinner, proposed a reception.

This was passed by 12 to seven by councillors on the committee. However, this decision must be passed by the full council, which is meeting this evening.

Dublin City Council has already voted to invite both teams to an historic reception.

Belfast Telegraph

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