Gibson football row rumbles on

Darron Gibson's hopes that the row over his right to play for the Republic of Ireland was over have been dealt a blow by the IFA.

IFA Chief Executive Howard Wells has again insisted that the 19 year-old Manchester United midfielder from Derry cannot play for Steve Staunton’s team under the rules set down by FIFA, the game’s governing body.

His comments were made after Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern told the IFA to stop chasing the footballer for Northern Ireland.

Mr Wells said: “I don’t want to get into a war of words on this issue, but the Good Friday Agreement and passports are totally irrelevant.

“Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, I could get an Irish passport, having been a resident in Northern Ireland for over two years, but I still couldn't play for the Republic.

“The four points of eligibility are where the player was born, where his parents were born, where his grandparents were born and residency.

“As far as our legal advice has told us, we are right on this issue and we will wait to see what FIFA say.”

After the highly rated former Northern Ireland youth player was given his first senior cap for the Republic of Ireland in the 4-0 drubbing of Denmark last Wednesday - effectively binding him to the Republic - Minister Ahern told the IFA to end their campaign to secure his services.

“The IFA have got to realise they cannot change the Good Friday Agreement. Under the terms of the historic agreement anyone born on the island of Ireland can choose an Irish or British passport.

“In this instance the player has chosen an Irish passport and is fully qualified for to play for the Republic of Ireland under the Good Friday Agreement. There is no ambiguity in this issue and the IFA have got to finally accept that.”

Darron Gibson had hoped his selection for the Republic of Ireland senior team in Denmark would finally put the debate to rest.

He told the ‘Journal’ at the weekend: “Since I have switched to the Republic of Ireland, my thoughts have not really changed. I consider myself as an Irish player and that is the way I see it. I want to play for the Republic of Ireland and, until I am told different, that is the way it is going to stay.”

Foyle Sinn Fein assemblyman Raymond McCartney has warned the Irish Football Association to stop “putting obstacles in the way of nationalists opting to represent the Republic of Ireland” or run the risk of being labelled ‘anti-Agreement unionists’.

“There must be no confusion on this matter, and no private lobbying from the IFA to deter representatives of the Football Association of Ireland from either selecting or approaching young players in the six counties who may wish to represent their country at international level.

"The IFA must send out a clear message that it will respect the rights of Irish nationalists as Irish citizens in their own country. The Good Friday Agreement recognises the right of Irish people living in the north to their identity it is not up to the IFA to deny them that right.