Bernard Dunne makes formal complaint to IABA claiming document undermined him

High performance director says unsigned document was unfairly critical of him

Olympic gold medalist   Kellie Harrington with  IABA high performance director  Bernard Dunne. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Olympic gold medalist Kellie Harrington with IABA high performance director Bernard Dunne. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

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A formal complaint in writing has been made to the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) by high performance director Bernard Dunne.

The letter, seen by The Irish Times, which was sent to chief executive Fergal Carruth in September, names two members who Dunne alleges have undermined his position as the head of the high performance unit, the State-funded body that prepares Irish boxers to compete at European and World Championships and Olympic Games.

In the letter Dunne outlines how an unsigned ‘SWOT Analysis Position Paper’, which was purported to have been written following a survey within Irish boxing, was unfairly critical of him and had the intent of discrediting and undermining his position in both a personal and professional capacity.

Dunne’s letter contends that the IABA board was presented with a copy of the unsigned document and are aware of the nature of its contents. It adds that the purpose of the document was to inflict as much reputational damage as possible on Dunne and “serve the self-interests of both the author and the person who circulated the document”.

Dunne includes a copy of the ‘SWOT Analysis Position Paper’ with his letter. In it, he states, is the name of an individual he says created the document. The name can be found in the section of the email which provides the properties of the document.

Dunne names another individual who he alleges shared the document, not just with board members but also within the wider boxing community. He says that at no stage was he asked to contribute or afforded the opportunity to challenge the contents or give consent for the document to be circulated in the manner it was.

Without containing any data or naming the individuals or bodies that took part, the document makes many damaging and unsubstantiated conclusions with regard to Dunne’s position.

At the beginning it says: “In this position paper, coaches, administrators and members have been consulted on ‘their view’ of the current situation in Irish Amateur Boxing. As stakeholders we have formulated our thoughts on how to improve our sport, to help further our success in this fast, and ever-changing world.”

In one of the conclusions it states: “Irish Boxing needs a person with a different personality, profile, and the right skill set. Otherwise, Irish Boxing will decline further. Taking all matters into account, and consideration of the findings of the SWOT Analysis, clearly indicates, the Performance Director should not get another four year term contract.

“However, applying the ‘Good Governance Principle’ of Fair Play, he should be offered a six months contract, and no longer than one year. Following on from this period, the position for High Performance Director, should be advertised forthwith.”

The Irish boxing team headed by Dunne successfully travelled to Tokyo in August, where Kellie Harrington won the lightweight gold medal and Aidan Walsh won welterweight bronze at the Olympic Games, one half of the Irish team’s entire haul.

At the Rio Games in 2016, when Dunne had not yet been appointed, boxing did not win any medals. Sport Ireland, when it was made aware of the document, said it had “no merit”.

As a result of the document, Dunne maintains that his job of taking a boxing team to Tokyo was made immeasurably more difficult and that it impacted on both him and his Irish team members.

The best

Another one of the document’s conclusions was that Irish boxing had fallen out of touch, which was not only a criticism of Dunne but the coaches around him, Zaur Antia and John Conlan, who are regarded as among the best in the world.

It also recommended that: “All teams selected by HPU must be ratified by the Boxing Council, with permission to travel.”

An analogy would be Andy Farrell or Stephen Kenny picking a team for a rugby or soccer World Cup match and submitting it to a committee, who had the authority to make changes with the coach remaining responsible for the outcome.

Dunne said that it put him under extreme pressure and undue stress at the most pivotal moment in his role as leader of the HPU, adding that the document was circulated at a time when his contract renewal was under negotiation.

In the letter he asks that the IABA immediately set in train a process to fully investigate the matters and requests that all meetings are formally held with detailed minutes taken. He also requests full access to the minutes before the process moves to a decision-making stage and specifically asks for a copy of the recorded minutes from the board meeting where the ‘SWOT Analysis Position Paper’ was presented.

In the letter he also asks to be afforded due process in a manner that is transparent and free from interference and requests that the matter is dealt with efficiently as his role and position continues to be undermined. He also asks for confirmation of the make-up of any disciplinary panel.

The former professional World champion concludes by saying the document was used as leverage to undermine his position as the head of the Olympic boxing team and HPU, expresses disappointment that no action has been taken and says it has negatively impacted on his mental health.

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