Rhys McClenaghan could miss out on defending his Commonwealth Games title due to the FIG decision ©Getty Images

The Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI) has joined calls for the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) to reverse a block on Northern Irish athletes at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, who are currently ruled out due to nationality eligibility issues.

Rhys McClenaghan, Eamon Montgomery and Ewan McAteer are all set to miss the Games because they represent Ireland in FIG events.

Commonwealth Games Northern Ireland called the decision "incomprehensible" and looked to appeal the ruling.

In a statement, the OFI called for a change.

"The Olympic Federation of Ireland Athletes' Commission is disappointed to learn of the decision by FIG whereby Northern Irish athletes, including Olympian Rhys McClenaghan, have been informed of their ineligibility to represent Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games later this year and calls for review and reversal of this decision," said the OFI.

"Rhys McClenaghan is from Northern Ireland, is the 2018 Commonwealth Games Champion, and competed for Ireland in the Tokyo Olympics.

"Besides the relevance of the Good Friday agreement for the people of Northern Ireland, the FIG is out of line with other sports on this matter where athletes from Northern Ireland can choose to represent either Team Ireland or Team GB internationally, as well as representing Northern Ireland at Commonwealth Games.

"This principle is accepted fully by both Gymnastics Ireland and British Gymnastics as well as the Olympic Federation of Ireland across all sports.

"At the heart of FIG, as outlined in their mission statement, is a commitment to upholding and promoting the health and well-being of athletes, and inclusiveness."

Ewan McAteer is one of the three affected gymnasts ©Getty Images
Ewan McAteer is one of the three affected gymnasts ©Getty Images

FIG said allowing McClenaghan, Montgomery and McAteer to compete violated their rules.

"The main rationale for this decision is a violation of the FIG Statutes and rules: gymnasts taking part in any international competition sanctioned by the FIG must have a valid FIG license of the national federation they represent," read FIG's statement.

"In 2017, the FIG had already informed Gymnastics Ireland, along with British Gymnastics, in writing, that gymnasts and judges under the Ireland national federation registration with the FIG were not eligible for the Commonwealth Games.

"The FIG realises the challenges this situation brings for all stakeholders and suggested the following options: The first option would be to remove the competition from the FIG calendar of registered competitions, at the request of the Commonwealth Games Federation.

"The second option would be for the athletes to change their FIG license nationality registration. 

"The FIG awaits an official decision on the options suggested."

McClenaghan, the Gold Coast 2018 pommel horse champion, was critical of the ban too.

"I was born in Northern Ireland, my residence is in Northern Ireland and I represented and won gold for Northern Ireland in the last Commonwealth Games," said McClenaghan in a tweet.

"I feel that FIG do not understand the gravity of the Belfast Agreement and the unique situation pertaining to Northern Ireland.

"Every other sport understand the eligibility of Northern Irish athletes in accordance with Commonwealth Games. 

"I would like to ask the FIG to reconsider their decision and allow us to compete at the Commonwealth Games."

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, left, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, right, signed the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 ©Getty Images
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, left, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, right, signed the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 ©Getty Images

The Belfast Agreement, better known as the Good Friday Agreement, is a pair of agreements signed in 1998 that led to more peace in Northern Ireland.

It symbolically led to the end of the Troubles, an ethno-nationalist civil war in Northern Ireland fought generally between Catholic and Protestant paramilitaries who also tended to support republicanism and unionism in relation to the United Kingdom respectively.

One of the key points in the Agreement allowed Northern Irish citizens to "identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both".

Northern Irish athletes - despite being British citizens - have often competed for Ireland in sport such as footballer James McClean and golfer Rory McIlroy.