Dáil sports chair urges calm in Billy Walsh dispute

The chairman of the Oireachtas Sports Committee has appealed for calm in the increasingly bitter dispute over the resignation of Olympic boxing coach Billy Walsh.

Fine Gael TD John O’Mahony will chair a meeting of the committee on Wednesday which has cleared its agenda to deal with the issue.

Both the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) and Sport Ireland, which have been trading criticisms and contradictions over the fiasco, have accepted invitations to attend.

Mr O’Mahony said it was important that both sides get to air their accounts in an independent forum and the committee would “give it as long as is needed”.

“There’s been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and allegation and counter-allegation so it’s about getting to the bottom of things,” he said. “As somebody who has been involved in sport all my life, I can see how issues can get out of control.

“I think the committee is a good forum for allowing, in a very calm fashion, for each organisation to put forward their views and the events as they see them having happened. It is impotant that calm waters be thrown on this.”

Fine Gael TD John O’Mahony
Fine Gael TD John O’Mahony

It has not been confirmed who will represent the organisations at the meeting.

In its latest statement on the dispute, which came after the invitations to meet were issued, the IABA called on Sport Ireland chairman Kieran Mulvey to withdraw remarks he made about the way the IABA had conducted itself.

“We will vigorously defend the disgraceful allegations made by Sport Ireland, both directly in our future interactions with the agency, and reserve the right to take whatever further action we deem appropriate,” the statement said.

Mr O’Mahony last nightsaid the make-up of the delegations had not been received yet.

“All I know is that both Sport Ireland and the IABA accepted the invitation immediately,” he said.

Sport Ireland chairman Kieran Mulvey
Sport Ireland chairman Kieran Mulvey

He said that, as well as reviewing the events to date, he would also be seeking assurances that processes were in place to prevent a repeat.

“It’s now too late for Billy Walsh but key will be what plans they have to avoid this ever happening again,” he said. “Everybody has to move on. Rio is coming up next year. What’s important here is the Irish boxers and that their preparations are not in any way affected.

“No matter what differences might be between the IABA and Sport Ireland, I think both of them want the same aim and that is to have as much success for Irish athletes and in this case for Irish boxers. I think the whole nation would want that, so it’s about outlining how they intend to see that that happens.”

Billy Walsh
Billy Walsh

Tensions have existed between the IABA and Sports Ireland for a number of years but intensified after the successful 2012 Olympics when a review suggested the High Performance Unit might separate from the IABA to allow it greater autonomy.

Mr Walsh has been adamant that it was the IABA’s attempts to further restrict his autonomy in his new contract that led to his departure. The IABA claimed negotiations floundered over financial demands.

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