Monday 16 September 2019

IABA election row leads to Convention chaos

Dominic O’Rourke won the vote 194 to 102, but will the result stand? Picture credit: Ray McManus / Sportsfile
Dominic O’Rourke won the vote 194 to 102, but will the result stand? Picture credit: Ray McManus / Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

The split within the Irish Athletic Boxing Association was laid bare at a chaotic annual Convention in the National Stadium yesterday.

After three hours of rancorous exchanges, the meeting broke up in chaos without the agenda being completed.

A decision by IABA president Pat Ryan to adjourn the convention without announcing the result of the election of officers - which is done by postal vote - may turn out to be his last official duty, as he was decisively beaten by former president Dominic O'Rourke 194-102 for the position.

But it remains to be determined - probably by the High Court - whether the result of the elections will stand.

Amidst unprecedented scenes of bedlam with delegates crowding around the podium and attempting to address convention, the chairman of the IABA's board of directors Joe Christle over-ruled Ryan's decision not to announce the results of the elections.

The Association's auditor made the announcements, though by then a significant minority of delegates had left.

In the other contests, Joe Hennigan - who was boxing team manager at the Rio Olympics - was elected vice-president, while acting secretary Art O'Brien won the contest for the position, defeating Antoinette Fay McClean and Liam Brereton.

But the result of the elections - normally the high point of the Convention - was a mere adjunct to the ongoing civil war within the organisation.

Having survived and sometimes prospered during their 106-year history, this was Irish amateur boxing's GUBU day. What went on was grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented.

The crux of the issue is that the elected officers believe that their authority has been usurped by the board of directors whereas the Board believe that they are carrying out their duties as they are legally obliged to do. Chairman Joe Christle pointed out that for the last 18 months the board has been made up of six 'boxing' men and four 'none-boxing' representatives.

Given that this was the first time the various factions and club delegates were together in the same room since the public outbreak of hostilities in the spring, it was always likely that the exchanges would be rancorous.

The specific issue which sparked the descent into farce was a suggestion by Pat Ryan that it would be 'prudent' not to announce the result of the national elections, because of an ongoing dispute about the re-running of the contests for the position of president and secretary of the Ulster Council.

Traditionally, May 31 is the deadline for club to affiliate with the IABA in order to be eligible to vote. It is understood that up to 25 clubs in Ulster had not submitted their affiliation forms by the deadline and were not allowed to participate in the vote which saw the re-election of Paul McMahon and Sadie Duffy as president and secretary respectively. The IABA board of directors subsequently extended the affiliation deadline to July 31 and ordered the Ulster election to be re-run, though did not order any of the other provincial bodies to do likewise.

In the re-run, McMahon and Duffy were comprehensively beaten by Kevin Duffy - who is a member of the board of directors - and Charlie Toland for the position of president and secretary respectively.


McMahon and Duffy are challenging the legality of the re-run and an affidavit has been lodged with the High Court in Dublin - but the two sides disagree on where the process is at, though it is due for a hearing on November 6. But due to the ongoing legal issues Ryan and Art O'Brien argued that the results of the election should not be announced.

After a two-hour debate on a whole range of mostly unrelated topics, the chairman finally called for a vote on whether the results of the election which were contained in an envelope held by the association's auditor - who was present - would be opened.

There was significant jeering from the body of the hall and the vote descended into a total farce. There were disputes over who was eligible to vote and who held voting cards and ultimately it proved impossible to do a head count of the vote.

By then, Ryan has lost control of the meeting and though there were suggestions made about how to regularise the vote, he announced the convention was adjourned.

The IABA chief executive Fergal Carruth then approached the podium and said the envelope containing the ballot results should be opened. Ryan again declared that the meeting closed and there was a verbal exchange between Art O'Brien and Carruth about their respective powers.

It was then assumed that the convention was adjourned and delegates left their seats to get tea and sandwiches while others drifted away.

Following a 15-minute break, Joe Christle announced that the board of directors had decided that the results should be announced. Despite protests from O'Brien and Dublin delegate Olive Keogh, the results of the election were announced. No other business was conducted.

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