IABA locked in talks to resolve dispute

Irish Athletic Boxing Association officials were last night locked in talks at the National Stadium in an attempt to cease the organisation’s much-publicised civil war.

The IABA have faced intense scrutiny from both Sport Ireland and the public since it emerged at Bernard Dunne’s unveiling as new High Performance Director back in April that the governing body effectively is split into two factions, with two men of the fervent belief that they are rightful chairman: the incumbent Joe Christle, and David O’Brien.

Believing Christle’s tenure to have technically ended last October, five of the ten IABA board members - including the president Pat Ryan - elected O’Brien as chair back in March. This breakaway board maintain their five votes was an adequate majority for both the meeting to be considered valid and for O’Brien’s appointment to be ratified, on the basis that one of the five members not present – Joe McKeever – was ineligible under world governing body rules due to his involvement in the professional sport. The legitimacy of the entire ousting has been rejected by Christle, the barrister who is still recognised as chairman by Sport Ireland, and remains listed with the Companies Registration Office in the position.

Sport Ireland are a common denominator in the dispute. The IABA’s Central Council, which partially consists of the breakaway board that voted in O’Brien, are unwilling to cede much of their control to the IABA’s full-timers including CEO Fergal Carruth and the High Performance Unit – both supported by Sport Ireland.

With Bernard Dunne already appointed as new High Performance Director, Sport Ireland wish for the IABA to continue with their Rio Review recommendations. These would give more power to the High Performance Unit – an idea not supported by Central Council and the breakaway board, some of whom are understood to be flabbergasted that these recommendations have been agreed to at all. A new rulebook must also be implemented before Sport Ireland’s June 30th deadline, with the threat of a freeze in funding understood to have drawn both warring parties together for last night’s meeting in Dublin.

But this is another major point of contention; CEO Carruth has had a rulebook drafted in line with Sport Ireland’s Rio reccomendations – one which Sport Ireland themselves insist must be implented for funding to continue. Conversely, Central Council have proposed their own rulebook, which is understood to dictate that they, and not Bernard Dunne or any High Performance Director, retain final say on team selection.

However, while both Board members and delegates from Central Council were scheduled to meet last night with the hope of resolving this dispute, chairman claimant David O’Brien maintains that only ordinary members of the IABA can vote in a new rulebook, and that the implementation of any change would require a two-thirds majority vote at an EGM. With just fifteen days remaining until Sport Ireland’s deadline, this would require a level of organisation with which the IABA would not typically be associated in its current state.

All of this arrives at the opening bell of the European Championships in Kharkiv, from where nine Irish boxers will attempt to return with medals. The Championships themselves, too, became a point of contention, or more pertinently, the personnel involved did.

Bernard Dunne was initially under the impression that he’d be travelling to Kharkiv as Ireland’s Team Manager, as per Sport Ireland’s recommendations. Instead, the Central Council assigned Gerry O’Mahony of the Munster Council to the role, in keeping with a recent tradition which has seen a member of a provincial council act as Manager at major tournaments.

There remains an enormous amount for both sides of Irish boxing’s great divide to both clarify and rectify, and the suspicion is that it will require more than one meeting.

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