Boxing

Clubs who did not affiliate in time cannot vote in Ulster Council elections says president Paul McMahon

Ulster Council president Paul McMahon insists nothing has changed regarding clubs eligible to vote at Sunday morning's congress in Omagh
Neil Loughran

THE Ulster Boxing Council congress on Sunday morning could be a lively affair after the provincial body’s president confirmed that a host of clubs will not be permitted to vote.

Election papers for the posts of president and secretary - currently held by Paul McMahon and Sadie Duffy – had to be in by last Friday, with congress taking place at the Silverbirches Hotel in Omagh.

Two week ago Kevin Duffy (St Joseph’s, Derry) and Charlie Toland (Ormeau Road) declared their intention to contest the positions.

As it stands, though, up to 39 clubs could be ineligible to have their say in the elections after failing to affiliate with the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) before May 31.

This has provoked much debate, and led to IABA chief executive Fergal Carruth sending a last-gasp letter calling upon the Ulster Council to allow clubs who had affiliated by June 30 “to cast their votes in the normal way”.

“Clear examples have occurred in several units including Ulster where county boards have received club affiliation forms in June (after the 31st of May deadline) in the year of election and those clubs have been allowed to vote in provincial and national elections,” he wrote.

However, Carruth’s intervention appears at odds with a previous letter sent by IABA president Pat Ryan, where the Portlaoise man stated that there was a “well-established rule” that had been “strictly applied by the majority of county board secretaries”.

“Clearly,” said Ryan, “to allow any club to a vote to which they were not entitled could result in any subsequent election being declared null and void and could, in fact, lead to legal action.”

And Ulster Council president McMahon insists the situation remains unchanged as Sunday nears.

“We have adhered to the rule – if anybody believes there is a different rule, or a different interpretation of the rule, that’s their opinion,” said the west Belfast man.

“We believe the letter from the officer board, signed by the president [Pat Ryan], is very clear and unambiguous. I’m bewildered why the CEO of the organisation is getting involved in the election.

“Surely he has more important things he needs to look into from the points raised in the officer board letter. If we have broken a rule, I would ask him to put it out there what rule we’ve broken.”

McMahon also hit out at those who had gone “way over the top” in voicing their opinions on social media in the lead-up to the election.

It was a theme Ryan touched on in his letter, lambasting the “despicable, sinister and cowardly” comments – some of which were aimed in the direction of McMahon and Sadie Duffy - and saying a full investigation would be launched.

“To my experience, it’s unprecedented that there’s been so much hassle caused over an election,” said McMahon.

“The IABA have spent a lot of time promoting mental health issues, promoting volunteer policies – where’s the duty of care to the volunteers within who have been abused and bullied on social media?

“People wrote stuff and then took it down. They think it’s very funny; it’s not funny. We’re volunteers.

“I’ve seen some heated debates in my time but never in all my 44 years involved have I ever seen boxing brought down to the gutter the way it has been. It’s totally uncalled for and way over the top.

“The people involved in it now are blow-ins - they’re not boxing people.”

Despite the online comments, McMahon says he never considered walking away from the post, adding: “We’re boxing people.

“We’re proud of our sport and we’re proud of what we do for the kids who come into the sport. I don’t believe we’ve done anything wrong.

“We’re not quitters. At the start of a contest, boxers touch gloves as a mark of respect, and embrace at the end as a mark of respect for each other.

“This has not started like this, and it’s not going to end like this but, no matter what happens, we won’t be going on social media lambasting people.

“If we have a complaint, we’ll be going through the proper channels.”

Ormeau Road coach Charlie Toland is running for the post of Ulster Council secretary, with Derry's Kevin Duffy hoping to replace Paul McMahon as president

ELECTION WILL BE 'NULL AND VOID' IF CLUBS CAN'T VOTE SAYS BARNES SNR

THE president of the County Antrim Board says he will be calling for the results of the Ulster Council elections, regardless of the outcome, to be declared “null and void” if clubs are denied a vote.

As it stands, the votes of up to 39 Antrim board clubs will not be counted on Sunday, having a potentially huge say in the eventual results, with Kevin Duffy and Charlie Toland running for the posts of president and secretary currently held by Paul McMahon and Sadie Duffy.

McMahon says the provincial body intends to follow the letter of the law regarding clubs who failed to submit affiliation forms by May 31.

But County Antrim president Paddy Barnes snr says that could lead to the election results being rendered invalid.

“They’re interpreting the rule to suit themselves and we feel that’s totally wrong,” said Barnes snr.

“I’ve had a barrister look at this and, in his opinion, there’s no definition [of the rule]. It’s either or.

“Fergal Carruth has instructed the Ulster Council to allow these clubs to have a vote so, according to the IABA chief executive, they have to come up with some way of allowing these clubs to vote.

“We’ll be calling the election null and void and going straight to the CEO, then we’d be taking legal advice on it,” added Barnes snr when asked what would happen if the clubs in question were not granted a vote.

“For the past few months Fergal Carruth has been pushing good governance, so if there’s an issue with the rule, he has to come up with a definition and instruction around that rule.

“If Ulster aren’t going to grant the wishes of the clubs and the CEO, then there’s a bigger problem here.

“Even if Kevin Duffy and Charlie Toland were elected, the first thing I’d be saying to them is that they should get a clear definition around the rule and proper procedures put in place for the next election so that, no matter who is running, the definition of the rule is understood.”

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