A government minister has called upon the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) to “come out and stand up” for international soccer star James McClean over his refusal to wear a poppy.
Mr McClean, a Derry native plays for English Championship side Stoke City, has been warned by the English FA after he said he described himself as “proud Fenian”.
The player was at the weekend the target of sectarian abuse and criticism over his decision not to wear the poppy, which was worn by many players to mark the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.
Mr Halligan, who is junior minister for Skills, said he was “appalled” at the abuse against the player and called on the Irish football body to come to his defence over his stance.
“Appalled at the abuse against #JamesMcClean, would like to see @FAIreland come out and stand up for him in this debacle,” he said on Twitter.
Queries from the Irish Examiner to the FAI have gone unanswered and a response is still sought.
Campaigners have urged the English and Scottish football associations to tackle anti-Irish racism after James McClean and Neil Lennon were targeted by supporters.
The McClean incident came just days after Hibernian manager Lennon was hit by a coin during the Edinburgh derby.
Now the Professional Footballers' Association of Ireland and Show Racism the Red Card in both the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom have urged the game's governing bodies to get tough with offenders.
A joint statement said: "This statement is a joint call from Show Racism the Red Card Ireland, Show Racism the Red Card UK and the Professional Footballers' Association of Ireland to both the Football Association in England and the Scottish Football Association to have a more robust approach to abuse faced by players like James McClean and managers such as Neil Lennon.
"Racism on the basis of colour, nationality, religion or ethnicity is not acceptable and all within the game have a responsibility to respond appropriately.
"James McClean has stood in solidarity with team-mates who have experienced racism and spoken out. We stand in solidarity with James McClean, Neil Lennon and all those who experience racism.
"We call on both the Football Association in England and the Scottish Football Association to investigate all incidents of anti-Irish discrimination.
"We also call on both associations to invest funding in anti-racism education to help both supporters and young people understand the dangers and the impact of racism."
McClean branded spectators who confronted him at the weekend as "uneducated cavemen" in the latest incident surrounding his decision not to wear a poppy on his shirt, and was unhappy to learn the FA was investigating his comments.
He said: "The FA are investigating me after Saturday's event - for what, exactly?
"Yet week in, week out for the past seven years, I get constant sectarian abuse, death threats, objects being thrown, chanting which is heard loud and clear every week which my family, wife and kids have to listen to, they turn a blind eye and not a single word or condemnation of any sort."
The Republic of Ireland international was raised on the Creggan Estate in Derry, the home of six of those killed on Bloody Sunday.
Lurgan-born Lennon, like McClean a Catholic, has found himself the subject of abuse repeatedly and called time on his playing career with Northern Ireland after receiving death threats.
In announcing its decision to warn McClean over a single word used in his Instagram post, but to take no further action, the FA added "that any discriminatory language or behaviour aimed at any person or persons of nationality or faith, as we understand may have been experienced by the player in this case, is unacceptable."
Indeed, Rotherham's Kirk Broadfoot was handed a 10-match ban and a £7,500 fine for using abusive language towards the then Wigan midfielder in 2015.