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NIHRC welcomes decision that permits Northern Ireland gymnasts to compete at the Commonwealth Games

28 Jul 2022

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has welcomed the decision that will allow gymnasts Rhys McClenaghan, Eamon Montgomery and Ewan McAteer to represent Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games after representing Ireland in international competition. The Commission supported Commonwealth Games Northern Ireland in having the initial decision overturned.

As a National Human Rights Institution, and through our work with the Northern Ireland Sport and Human Rights Forum, the Commission works closely with the Commonwealth Games Northern Ireland and sports governing bodies.

NIHRC Chief Commissioner Alyson Kilpatrick wrote to the International Gymnastics Federation in support of the athletes and to express concern at the decision’s impact on their human rights.

The Commonwealth Games Federation Human Rights Policy Statement commits to “respecting all international human rights standards as enshrined within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the UN’s nine core international human rights treaties among them the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).”

Similarly, Article 15 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights recognises that everyone has the right to nationality and shall not be denied the right to change their nationality. In this particular case, the provision of the Declaration is further underpinned by the birth right of people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as British or Irish – or both – as they may choose; and accordingly to hold both British and Irish citizenship.

Speaking after the decision was overturned, NIHRC Chief Executive, David Russell said: “The fundamental right to participate and compete in sport is set down in a number of the international human rights treaties to which the Commonwealth Games Federation is committed. The enjoyment of this right must be secured without discrimination on any ground, including national and social origin. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission therefore welcomes the decision made by the International Gymnastics Federation to overturn their initial decision and that the gymnasts will now be allowed to represent Northern Ireland at the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.”

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