Irish Senator Frank Feighan has called for Ireland to participate in the Commonwealth Games ©Twitter

Irish politician Frank Feighan has called for athletes from Republic of Ireland to participate at the Commonwealth Games as a way to help improve relations with a post-Brexit Great Britain.

Feighan, a Senator for the Fine Gael party, proposed the idea to Irish sports chiefs as part of his plan for Ireland to join the Commonwealth for economic and trading reasons.

Only Northern Ireland is currently a member of the organisation.

Feighan pointed-out that many sports, including rugby and hockey, are already organised on an all-Ireland basis.

Athletes could therefore participate in these team sports at the Games in a bid towards an all-Irish football team.

"We have to look at ways of improving our relationship, particularly after Brexit," he was reported as saying by the Irish Independent.

"We have to extend the hand of friendship to our near neighbours.

"I would like to pose the question that if Ireland did rejoin the Commonwealth, could we not then see the real possibility of an All-Ireland team competing in the Commonwealth Games?

"Would we not all welcome the concept of Ireland as one hosting the Commonwealth Games, an event which would be of huge benefit to our country? 

"Such possibilities could eventually pave the way for the formation of an All-Ireland soccer team."

Only Northern Ireland are eligible to compete at the Commonwealth Games ©Getty Images
Only Northern Ireland are eligible to compete at the Commonwealth Games ©Getty Images

The Commonwealth is a group of 52 countries of which most were former colonies or dependencies of the British Empire.

Ireland is a former member which left in 1949 when it became an independent republic.

It appears there is no chance of them being eligible for the Commonwealth Games, next taking place in Gold Coast in April 2018, unless they rejoin the organisation.

"In line with Article 25 of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) constitution, eligibility to compete in the Commonwealth Games is at this moment defined by an athlete’s citizenship of a Commonwealth country," a CGF spokesperson told insidethegames.

"We work closely with our member Commonwealth Games Associations on any proposed amendments or revisions to the constitution."

The proposal is an interesting one because Belfast is due to host the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2021.

A single Irish team did compete at the 1930 British Empire Games, the inaugural edition of what became the Commonwealth Games, in Hamilton, Ontario, in Canada.

Hammer thrower Bill Britton won a silver medal.

An Irish Free State team also competed separately from Northern Ireland at the 1934 event in London.

Rory McIlroy had to choose between representing Ireland or Britain at Rio 2016 ©Getty Images
Rory McIlroy had to choose between representing Ireland or Britain at Rio 2016 ©Getty Images

All those born in Northern Ireland have been entitled to Irish citizenship since the 1998 Good Friday agreement.

This has led to several recent cases of athletes from Northern Ireland having to decide over whether to represent Britain or Republic of Ireland.

Golfer Rory McIlroy announced plans to compete for the Republic of Ireland at last year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro before withdrawing from the event.

He subsequently claimed to "resent" the Games for making him choose between the two.

Derry-born sprinter Jason Smyth has won five gold medals for Ireland at the Paralympics but represented Northern Ireland at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. 

Belfast's two-time Irish Olympic bronze medal winning boxer Paddy Barnes has also won two Commonwealth Games gold medals for Northern Ireland.

Irish Sports Council chief executive John Tracey, to whom Feighan spoke, said that the Commonwealth Games is a good way to develop athletes but that Irish participation is a "political decision".

"It's definitely beyond my pay-grade," he told the Irish Independent.