Olympic discrimination against NI?

Here’s a knotty identity issue from the DUP. NI hockey players aren’t eligible for the GB Olympic hockey team if they opt to play for Ireland in other competitions it seems, in which England, Scotland and Wales field separate teams. Alastair Ross MLA says NI players weren’t caught in this trap twenty years ago, but the rules have changed, apparently…

“When the Great Britain hockey team was at its most successful, players
from Northern Ireland were always an integral part of the squad, most
notably when local players Stephen Martin and Jimmy Kirkwood won the
Gold medal in the 1988 Olympic Games.

Unfortunately over recent years Ulster born players have been forced to
choose either to play for Ireland or for Team GB. Should a player aim for
the British team they rule themselves out of many of the other top
international competitions where GB do not compete, but rather England,
Scotland and Wales compete individually. It is therefore hard for a player
to play at a high enough level to maintain form…

How did this happen I wonder? Mr Ross goes on:

I have written to the Great Britain Hockey Association, the Irish Hockey
Association, the Sports Minister and the Commonwealth Games Council
for Northern Ireland to investigate the possibility of changing the eligibility
guidelines and also to look at the establishment of a Northern Ireland
hockey team which would be able to compete in the Commonwealth

But as in so many other sports, would an NI-only team be strong enough to reach the necessary competitive level? Why shouldn’t NI players be free to be selected for Ireland in other competitions, where E,S, W field separate teams, without prejudice to their selection for what is after all I believe, officially if cumbersomely called the GB&NI” Olympic team? But maybe I’ve just walked into one of those minefields…

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London