The CGF have played down fears that Northern Ireland could lose the hosting rights for the 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games ©Belfast 2021

Fears that Northern Ireland could lose the right to host the 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games due to the political impasse in the country have been played down. 

The Bahamas, hosts of the 2017 edition of the Games, are due to officially hand over the reins to Northern Ireland at their Closing Ceremony on July 23.

Concerns have been raised, howevr, after it emerged the business case had not been officially signed off by the Northern Ireland Executive.

The nation has been without a functioning Government since January after the power-sharing executive between the two main parties, Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), collapsed.

A Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) spokesperson told insidethegames they were "optimistic" that all parties would come together to get behind the event in capital Belfast in four years' time.

Sinn Féin's former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who died in March, resigned in protest at the handling of a green energy scheme, thought to have cost Northern Ireland taxpayers around £500 million ($641 million/€572,000).

His decision to resign forced an election to be held in March but it failed to produce an agreement as the parties did not agree to form a coalition.

Under the regulations of the power-sharing deal, the parties have to form a coalition and fill the roles of First and Deputy First Minister within three weeks of the election.

A deadline of June 29 has now been set to initiate a deal between the two parties, who blame each other for the current political climate in the nation.

The deadlock has sparked questions as to whether Northern Ireland can still host the 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games, which they were awarded in February 2016.

Northern Ireland was awarded the 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games last year ©Belfast 2021
Northern Ireland was awarded the 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games last year ©Belfast 2021

A CGF delegation, including President Louise Martin and chief executive David Grevemberg, are due to meet Northern Irish officials in Belfast on Tuesday (June 20).

According to the BBC, Roy Millar, a former head coach of the Northern Ireland national under-21 football team, sent a letter to sporting organisations which claimed the event was in "grave danger".

These fears have been dismissed, however, by Ciaran Kearney from the Northern Ireland Sports Forum.

"We're hoping that on Tuesday we'll be able to come to a resolution," he told the BBC.

"We don't want to go down the route of losing the Games, we still hope and we still expect that the Games will go ahead.

"The Games would be a wonderful opportunity to inspire our young athletes and give them something to work towards."

In a statement, the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council admitted they had not been provided with the necessary funding at this stage but they remain confident Tuesday's meeting will yield positive results.

"Funding support from government, at this point in time, has not been guaranteed for our Games organisation to progress in the expected way," their statement read.

"We very much welcome the support from the Northern Ireland Sports Forum and their calling of an emergency meeting on Tuesday where all stakeholders are invited to attend to ensure that Belfast 2021 can be delivered."

Boxer Michael Conlan has said it would be a shame if Northern Ireland did not host the event ©Getty Images
Boxer Michael Conlan has said it would be a shame if Northern Ireland did not host the event ©Getty Images

Boxer Michael Conlan, who caused controversy at last year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro with an expletive-laden rant in a television interview following his controversial quarter-final exit to Vladimir Nikitin, has said it would be a "shame" if Northern Ireland were to lose the hosting rights.

The world bantamweight champion competed at the 2008 edition of the event in Pune in India.

"I think it would be a shame for the Games not to come to Northern Ireland," Conlan told Belfast Live.

"I competed in them myself back in 2008 and I felt it played a major part in my development as a boxer.

"To have a home games would be fantastic for Northern Ireland as it's not often we get to host many events like this.

"It would be great for other athletes to experience the atmosphere and support that our fans would bring."

The CGF are confident the issue will not affect Northern Ireland's hosting of the Games.

"The Belfast 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games will be a proud and inspiring opportunity to put the Commonwealth’s finest young athletes and Northern Ireland’s ambitious sporting fraternity on the global sporting stage," the CGF spokesperson told insidethegames.

"With over four years to go, we're optimistic that all partners will come together to realise their shared legacy ambitions for this special event."