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Poll: Call for Northern Ireland to boycott World Cup over Russia's bombing of Syria - Do you agree?

By Jill Goligher

A call for Northern Ireland to boycott the 2018 World Cup over Russia's bombing of Syria will be discussed by Belfast City Council.

An SDLP councillor has proposed a motion urging Michael O'Neill's side not to travel if they qualify.

Declan Boyle says each of the home nations should stay away from the tournament.

The awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia has been mired in controversy.

It includes a dispute over the awarding of the hosting rights, the level of racism in Russian football, and the country's discrimination against gay people.

Mr Boyle raised concerns over Russia's involvement in the bombing of civilians in Syria's brutal civil war.

His motion, due to be discussed early next month, states: "This council notes the slaughter of innocent men, woman and children in Syria (Aleppo) and the displacement of millions of people.

"This council calls for Northern Ireland and the other teams playing in the World Cup from these islands to boycott the World Cup that is to be played in Russia."

Mr Boyle told the Belfast Telegraph: "Anyone watching the news and hearing reports involving the war in Syria, especially Aleppo, will know of the chaos taking place. Homes are being destroyed, innocent people being slaughtered. These are crimes against humanity."

Mr Boyle stated that all western national teams should boycott the Russian World Cup due to the suffering in Syria.

"Seeing footage of three and four-year-old children being blown up, the whole thing is absolutely horrendous," he added.

Mr Boyle said he was "certainly hoping" that other members of the council will support him.

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UUP councillor Jim Rodgers said he shared Mr Boyle's concerns over what was happening in Syria.

However, he said a boycott was the wrong option, and that sport and politics should not be mixed.

"I know the Northern Ireland team are keen to go, that includes our home countries as well; England, Wales and Scotland - none of them want to be left out," he said.

"In the past the World Cup has been played in cities which also have problems and strife. At the end of the day it's sport we are talking about, not politics or religion."

The Russian military intervention in the Syrian civil war began in September 2015.

In recent weeks Russia has launched a number of new assaults in Syria, resulting in devastating air strikes in Aleppo.

Buildings in Aleppo destroyed by bombing
Buildings in Aleppo destroyed by bombing
Northern Ireland fans at Euro 2016 in France
SDLP councillor Declan Boyle

A city once known as one of the world's most precious heritage sites is now in the midst of a brutal conflict.

Mr Boyle's call for a boycott echoes comments previously made by Nick Clegg, the former Deputy Prime Minister.

In October he said the UK's football teams should boycott the 2018 World Cup because of Russia's involvement in Syria.

Mr Clegg also called on Fifa to cancel the tournament after claiming Russian President Vladimir Putin was "mocking the world".

"If football's global governing body does not cancel the tournament, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland should boycott it," he said. "We can weep at the pictures and have endless debates with the UN, but the fundamental problem is that there is no cost to Russia. It might be a silly thing, it is ludicrous that Russia is going to hold the World Cup in 2018, what world are we in? That they basically abuse people's human rights on that scale, barbarism in Aleppo, and we will prepare to play football in Moscow in 2018?

"I think if Fifa had any moral mettle to it at all it will now say that Russia has forfeited any right to host any international tournament. I'm calling for Fifa to cancel Russia - if they don't, if Russia is behaving like this, of course we shouldn't turn up."

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