Homecoming decision not mine, says Taylor's father


PETER TAYLOR, father and coach of Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor, has strenuously denied reports he was the main reason for a decision that there would be no homecoming celebrations for Ireland’s Olympic athletes in Dublin today.

He told The Irish Times last night that neither he nor anyone in the Taylor family had anything to do with the decision. As far as he was aware “we were out for a meal – we were not around”, when the decision not to have homecoming celebrations in Dublin was made, he said.

“I don’t know why my name is being dragged into this. It’s without substance, and those few stupid words in the paper have taken the gloss off everything Katie has achieved.”

A Sunday Times report yesterday quoted a spokesman for the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) as saying there would be no homecoming for the Olympic athletes in Dublin today as Peter Taylor did not want one. “It was Katie Taylor’s father who did not want to do it, and what is the point of having a homecoming if Katie is not going to be there,” the OCI spokesman was quoted as saying.

He added: “Peter would be very influential in the whole organisation, because of the status of Katie Taylor. There is no point in doing it if he did not want it. Mr Taylor is focusing on the Bray event.”

The OCI yesterday distanced itself from the comments, saying it was a mistake to suggest Mr Taylor had blocked a Dublin homecoming. Mr Taylor said he did not understand how anyone could say he would be responsible for stopping such celebrations, when “all week we have been commending the fans. The fans won us gold. It is disgraceful and very hurtful for both of us.”

He said that as far as he was aware there never were any plans for a bus for the Olympic athletes from the airport to Stephen’s Green today. “There was never, ever a bus going to be running,” he said. However, he and the family had been aware of plans for an open-topped bus in Bray today.

When someone speculated there might also be such a bus in Dublin, he said he hoped the two would not clash. It was “the only comment I made” about the possibility of an open-topped bus in Dublin as well, he said.

Wicklow Independent councillor Nicky Kelly, a friend of Peter Taylor’s, said the boxing coach was “totally distraught” over the OCI spokesman’s comments.

He contrasted a phone conversation he had with Mr Taylor yesterday with one he had last Friday.

“He feels besmirched by the innuendo and that it has taken from the massive achievements of Katie, the family and the people of Ireland,” Cllr Kelly said.

He asked: “Where were some of these people when the Taylor family were looking for proper facilities for Katie?” Ireland’s only gold medallist, he pointed out, “prepared for the Olympics in a shed without a shower or toilet”.

He speculated that she was probably the only winner of a gold medal at the London Olympics to have prepared in such primitive conditions. “It’s disgusting that the commitment of the Taylor family and Katie’s achievements should be undermined in this way,” he said.

Head coach of the Irish boxing team Billy Walsh criticised the suggestion Mr Taylor had obstructed a Dublin homecoming.

“That piece in the paper that Pete had stopped the parade or celebrations when we came back – there’s no such thing. He wasn’t even in the room when the decision was made by the athletes that they didn’t want it.

“For some reason somebody is bandying his name around and he is absolutely livid – and it’s ruining his Olympic Games for him.

“He had no hand, act nor part to play in it,” said Mr Walsh.

“We are shattered physically and mentally, we want to get back to our loved ones, have a little celebration at home and if the nation wants us to have a celebration we’ll have that.”

On RTÉ yesterday, former world champion boxer Bernard Dunne described the situation as “an absolute shambles”. Fianna Fáil spokesman on sport Timmy Dooley said a homecoming event in Dublin city would have happened had it been “controlled and professionally planned”.

Lord Mayor of Dublin Naoise Ó Muirí said Dublin City Council had been in negotiations with the OCI and were ready to “push the button” for a homecoming event, but it was scuppered because the athletes did not want one.

“I’m a sports fan. I’m disappointed for the public. Without the support of the athletes would not be fair on the taxpayer,” he said. He confirmed an approach to private sponsors to fund some of the costs had been unsuccessful, but money had been found. “Funding was not an issue,” he said.