Monday, 29 March 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Along with many other people in the country, I watched as our international soccer team went down 1-0 to Luxembourg at the weekend. It was a hugely disappointing result. I looked across the Border and our friends in the Northern Ireland soccer team are on a similar run where they cannot seem to buy a win either. It raises the question many people are asking me that perhaps now is the time for us to have a debate in this country about having an all-island soccer team just like we have in rugby and hockey. The reality is that for two small nations, such as Northern Ireland and the Republic, to have two soccer teams on one island and expect them to compete at international level is simply not on anymore. We have seen what we can do when our nation unites. We have seen how our rugby team can compete with the very best in the world. Our rugby team beat England less than a week ago - the same English team that went on to compete in a World Cup final not so long ago. I ask that we would have a debate in this country and perhaps the Members of this Chamber would kick-start that debate by having the Minister of State at the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Deputy Jack Chambers, come to this House to see how we could start this conversation. Northern Ireland, and indeed the Republic, have had some good days in the past. Here, in the Republic, we had an opportunity last night to watch a programme on Virgin Media One about dementia and the great late Jack Charlton who, like many others, suffered from that disease. I saw the scenes of the glory days when we had success in this country - indeed, Northern Ireland have had their day in the sun too - but not as often as we would like. It is time we had that debate. I would like us in this Chamber to kick that off by asking the Minister of State with responsibility for sport to come in to have a debate on that subject.