The Silver Birches Hotel in Omagh could prove to be the venue for potentially the toughest fight in Ulster Boxing this Year.
On Sunday the 13th of August, the Ulster Boxing Council Congress will meet to discuss and vote on among other issues the election of President and Secretary, roles currently held by Paul McMahon and Sadie Duffy. The role of President will be contested by Derry County Board Secretary and current Ulster Council member Kevin Duffy, while Charlie Toland from the Ormeau Road Boxing Club in Belfast will be running for the post of Secretary.
The election of council officials would not normally be the focus of such interest, had the validity of the upcoming vote not been a topic of much heated and passionate debate in the press and across social media platforms. The main thrust of the argument centres around the 31st of May which is stipulated as the deadline for affiliation to the IABA, although late affiliations will be accepted. The issue for debate appears to surround the voting rights of upwards of 40 clubs who missed the disputed May deadline.
The Ulster Council are taking the stance that clubs affiliated after the 31st of May would be accepted for insurance purposes but would not be entitled to vote in any election in that year. This interpretation of the rule is being questioned by many, including Antrim County Board President Paddy Barnes Sr, who, bolstered by advice from a barrister, contests that there is no clear definition of the rule, and that he will call for the result to be declared null and void, regardless of the outcome of the election, if clubs are denied a vote.
It would be hoped that input from the national governing body would have helped to give clarity to the disputed rule but what appears to have been contradictory contributions from the IABA President Pat Ryan and its CEO Fergal Carruth may only have served to strengthen the opposing faction’s arguments.
In a letter to county boards and provincial councils Ryan appears to have sided firmly with the provincial body saying, “This is a well-established rule, it is clear and it has been strictly applied by the majority of county board secretaries” and went on to suggest that ignorance or incompetence from one county board in particular was the reason that so many clubs would be denied a vote.
The IABA position then became somewhat clouded when it is reported that its CEO Fergal Carruth, in what has been described as a ‘last-gasp’ letter called for the Ulster Council to allow clubs who had affiliated by the June 30th ”to cast their votes in the normal way.”
Carruth went on to write that “clear examples had occurred in several units including Ulster where county boards had received affiliation forms in June in the year of election and those clubs have been allowed to vote in provincial and national elections”. It might be taken that Carruth was suggesting that a precedent had been set and that the rule had been interpreted differently in the past.
However, this plea from Carruth has seemingly fallen on deaf ears and it is believed that only clubs affiliated before the end of May will be able to vote this weekend.
The result of the election will be known on Sunday afternoon, but the fallout could continue for many weeks and months. It’s hoped that common sense can prevail and that democracy wins, and the matter is swiftly resolved allowing the undoubted passion and love of boxing that all the parties clearly possess can be focused back on the boxers and the development of Ulster boxing.