Boxing authorities reaffirm their ‘absolute confidence’ in Bernard Dunne

Position of high performance director robustly defended by IABA chairman

The position of Irish boxing's high performance director Bernard Dunne was robustly defended during a Joint Oireachtas Committee meeting on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Gaeltacht on Wednesday.

The performance of his coaching staff and the Irish boxers who travelled to the Olympic Games last summer was also praised during a two hour exchange between cross party politicians and representatives from the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) and Sport Ireland (SI)

Both Sport Ireland's chief executive John Treacy and the IABA's Ciarán Kirwan rubbished an unsigned document called Swot, which was highly critical of Dunne and his high performance unit (HPU) and had been circulated widely in boxing and at board level prior to Tokyo.

“It came to our attention in February/March,” said Kirwan. “I rubbished it. It was an appalling document, an appalling attack on our member, not just on our high performance director but on our unit.”


Kirwan added that it is not the end of the matter and that a review of the IABA’s governance is being undertaken with a report due at the end of the year. He bemoaned the fact they were answering questions now before the report had been completed.

Following a question from Sinn Féin’s Imelda Munster, he added that the IABA is also investigating the Swot document.

“I have absolute confidence in Bernard Dunne,” said Kirwan. “I chaired the interview selection panel that appointed him. We are investigating it [Swot]. We know whose fingerprints, hand prints are on it. Nobody has taken responsibility.”

When asked by Deputy Munster whether the IABA had governance deficiencies Kirwan replied: “Oh, I think we do”.

He also confirmed that Dunne and his coaching staff are responsible for selecting teams that travel to World and European Championships and Olympic Games, although there is a difference of opinion on how the recent team and coaching staff at the World Championships in Belgrade was agreed on, selected and sent.

“Director of HPU . . . HPU has sole control over all elite teams,” said Kirwan when asked who selected Irish teams. “Ultimately it is the responsibility of the director of the HPU.”

Gender balance

The chairman of the IABA's board of directors also conceded that gender numbers at board level were problematic in the sport. According to the IABA website there are no females on the board despite the two highest-profile Olympic boxers being women, gold medalists Katie Taylor and Kellie Harrington.

“We are very weak on the gender balance on the board,” said Kirwan. “It is a problem and I can see that, yes.”

Kirwan also explained how he had to reach a compromise on the length of Dunne’s contract. Certain board members wanted it to be a short contract, while he proposed a contract until the next Olympics.

“Members on the board wanted a six-month contract,” he said. The Swot document also said Dunne should be offered only a six-month contract.

“I wanted him to be given a term until 2023. Sport Ireland was in support of me. A compromise had to be made.”

The compromise was two years.

Treacy, who retires this year, referred to “noise in the system” in Irish boxing and said, despite the Olympic success, the sport was making it very difficult for itself in attracting sponsors.

“If you have all this noise in the system, corporate Ireland would see a deeply divided body and ask why would we ever go near it,” said Treacy. He pointed out that this time it was not SI in dispute with boxing but different factions within the sport at loggerheads with each other.

“This is a boxing council issue and there is an election coming up,” said Treacy.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times