Gareth MorganIndependent ie: April 8, 2008 - IRISH athletes face a controversial "gagging" clause in the contract they must sign before heading to the Beijing Olympic Games.
The contract will prevent them from speaking out or demonstrating against human rights abuses.
The Olympic Council of Ireland, however, suggested that Irish athletes would be free to boycott the opening ceremony, and could escape punishment by arguing that they were busy training.
Pressure mounted on Ireland to boycott the opening ceremony yesterday, as protests against Chinese rule in Tibet flared in Paris.
There were also calls for clarification of the so-called "gagging" clause, which the Olympic Council of Ireland said it was powerless to change, because it invoked Rule 51 of the Olympic Charter.
The 'constitution' of the Olympic movement forbids athletes from "political, religious or racial propaganda" at Olympic sites -- under threat of being disqualified or sent home.
Aid agency GOAL and the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of the Falun Gong (CIPFG) last night spearheaded calls for an Irish boycott of the opening ceremony on August 8.
Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern and Sports Minister Seamus Brennan believe the ceremony should not be boycotted.
Senator David Norris said Rule 51 supported "the nonsensical idea that the games are not political".
He yesterday demanded a "dignified, non-violent" boycott where the Irish flag would be carried, but Irish athletes absent.
Patricia McKenna, former Green MEP and CIPFG spokeswoman asked what the International Olympic Committee would do if the contract was breached.
"Are they going to expel famous athletes, and what would the reaction be?," she said.
The IOC is expected to issue a statement on the matter on Thursday.
Frank Greally, spokesman for the Athletics Association of Ireland, admitted the political atmosphere was "getting quite stormy", but said he couldn't see any athletes "breaking ranks".
"There is lots of pressure, but it is more political pressure than anything involving the athletes."
Management for medal hopeful Derval O'Rourke indicated that she did not wish to comment on politics, but was "just going out there to . . . hopefully win a medal".
GOAL, however, called for Ireland to show "moral fibre", arguing that "backing-away from [a boycott] subverts any claim we have to a moral foreign policy."