The three leading figures in the Irish Amateur Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) have now resigned throwing the organisation into a bona fide crisis mode.
Following High Performance Director Bernard Dunne’s resignation in May after failing to resolve a conflict with his employers, Chairman Ciaran Kirwan and Chief Executive Officer Fergal Carruth handed in their resignations on Thursday and are expected to step away from the sport in September.
On Friday Minister of Sport Jack Chambers said he wanted boxing to engage with Sport Ireland (SI) over the matter.
“In resigning, both men (Kirwan and Carruth) refer to the ongoing debates within boxing about governance standards within the sport and I hope that IABA will soon be able to engage with Sport Ireland on this important area for the future development of the sport,” he said.
The resignations leave President Gerry O’Mahony and four other board members from each of the provinces in situ and reach back to July when the board recommended that the association modernise their governance structures in line with other Irish sport’s organisations.
Chambers advised that 15 per cent cut would be imposed if Motion One was not adopted at an egm held in Roscommon. The motion recommended that the board be restructured with independent members included as well as a gender balance of at least 40 per cent female as set out by Government and required by all Irish sports bodies.
This was overwhelmingly rejected with funding to the sport cut by €75,000. That was reflected in last week’s allocation of core grants to boxing which received €500,000 with 15 per cent withheld.
Many within boxing read the defeat of the motion as a de facto vote of no confidence in the board who backed the changes.
At the time Fine Gael Senator Michael Carrigy tweeted: “Very comprehensive and welcome result today. Those at the top who have damaged boxing need to step away namely Kieran (sic) Kirwan and Fergal Carruth.”
Following their resignations, the chief executive of Sport Ireland, Una May, expressed a different opinion, saying her organisation has a “high regard” for both Carruth and Kirwan.
A spokesman for Minister Chambers said last week:
“If they (IABA) don’t show any reform then ultimately, starting at next year funding will be removed. That’s the trajectory we have set up. We are waiting to hear back from them about what reforms they are going to propose and we will go from there. We have heard what they don’t want and now we have to hear what they do want.”
Sport Ireland could work with what remains of the boxing board and agree a new interim CEO has they have done with a number of Irish sports bodies in the past.
Former Sailing CEO, Paddy Boyd, was appointed interim chief executive of Canoeing Ireland and Basketball Ireland, while the former head of Athletics Ireland and interim chief executive of Cycling Ireland, John Foley, was appointed as the interim chief executive of Tennis Ireland.
Irish boxing has a history of internal conflict at board level, has faced funding cut threats before, elected two different boards who each claimed legitimacy and this year the decision to expel 25 high-profile members including officers of the Leinster and Connacht Councils and the Dublin Boxing Board was overturned by Sports Disputes Solution Ireland (SDSI).
Ciarán Kirwan, a solicitor by profession, has served as Chairman of since 2019, having served as a Director since 2014. Fergal Carruth was appointed CEO in 2013.
The chief executive of Sport Ireland, Una May, has said her organisation has a “high regard” for the Chief Executive and Chairman of the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) Fergal Carruth and Ciarán Kirwan who have resigned from their positions.
In an interview on Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1, May said that during their tenure the IABA has seen substantial growth with an almost three fold increase in membership — 25 per cent of which are women.
May said Kirwan and Carruth were not the source of problems within the organisation.
She said the board themselves commissioned the recent report in relation to reforms knowing that as an organisation they had some challenges.
“So this report was actually commissioned by the board of the IABA. The report made 64 recommendations many of which are very straightforward and basic. Some of which are more difficult for some of the members to accept.”
May said Sporting Ireland are “more than happy to support and guide” the IABA in any way they can.
“Recently we have met multiple times with the leadership of the organisation. It is very important for us to have a strong leadership. We do have our communications and collaborations. We are open for business to support wherever we can.”
May said if there is an absence of action in relation to new appointments, Sport Ireland would put an independent chair in place. She stressed that is not their preference to to get involved in financial sanctions.