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Euro 2016: Unionist councillors refuse to back congratulations letter to Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland - because England weren't included

By Rebecca Black and Claire Williamson

Unionist councillors in Belfast refused to back a proposal to write letters of congratulations to the Northern Irish and Republic of Ireland football teams on their performance at Euro 2016 - because England wasn’t included.

It's the second row to kick-off at council over celebrating the achievements of the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland football teams.

In January a motion calling for the proposed joint reception for the teams was met with a heated debate and was eventually passed with unionists voting against it.

However on Monday night a debate was held on a motion put forward by Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown that they write to both the IFA and FAI to “express its admiration on behalf of all the citizens of Belfast”.

He explained: “Fans from across Ireland, supporting both teams, made a tremendous contribution to the Euros. So much so, in fact, that the Mayor of Paris praised them. This motion recognises the brilliant achievements of the teams and the contribution sport can make in uniting our community.”

But the UUP and DUP refused to back it unless England and Wales were also included - that element was not passed.

Alliance councillor Michael Long branded the UUP's Jim Rodgers 'foolish' for wanting to congratulate England also.

Speaking on the BBC Stephen Nolan Show UUP councillor Jim Rodgers said: "We put forward an amendment recognising the achievement of Northern Ireland, England, Wales and the Republic of Ireland because they all reached the last 16 of the competition."

Councillor Long said to congratulate England would make the FA think they were mocking them.

He said: "The reality is most people in Belfast would celebrate Northern Ireland or Republic of Ireland teams - we didn't want to get into another row about this.

"We thought a simple straight forward motion would be something nobody could possibly object to.

He added: "My brother-in-law is English, he said can you imagine the English Football Association, their manager has resigned, the team got hammered, commentators think they are a disgrace, the team arrived home in the middle of the night.

"Can you imagine a letter arriving into the FA from Belfast City Council saying congratulations on your football team? They would think we were having a joke at their expense."

The motion for a joint reception is still on the books, however it is unlikely to happen anytime soon because all the players are currently on holiday and will shortly be returning to their clubs ahead of the new season.

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