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'Nobody Has Stood Up And Taken These People To Task. It's A Disgrace'

'Nobody Has Stood Up And Taken These People To Task. It's A Disgrace'
By PJ Browne

Billy Walsh has called on Sport Ireland and the Irish government to "stand up and make people accountable for their actions - or their inactions" within the IABA following Bernard Dunne's recent resignation as high performance director.

It was confirmed last week that Dunne resigned from the role after an unsigned document, which was critical of his performance, was circulated at IABA board level prior to last year's Olympic Games. Last October, Dunne submitted a complaint against two volunteers in connection with the dissemination of the document in February 2021.

In a statement released last week the IABA said it has "always regarded this document as malicious and an appalling attack on a member of staff and on the High-Performance Unit".

Walsh, who is now head coach for the US boxing team, was previously IABA high performance director.

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"I think it's crazy to be at this stage," he told RTÉ's Claire Byrne Live how.

"Three (high) performance directors later, two Oireachtas Committee meetings - which ended up just being talk shops - and nothing has happened.

"Nobody has stood up and actually taken these people to task. It's a disgrace. There's people's psychological welfare being affected by this.

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"They talk in sport now about the athletes' psychological safety, but what about the performance director's, and what about the coaches'?

"There were three of us: Gary Keegan, who showed the way for all of us, and then myself, and then Bernard. All of us are entrenched in Irish boxing. We're in it since we're kids. We love the sport, and we love our country. It was an honour to represent your country.

"To leave was such a difficult piece for me. I spent lots of nights crying on my own. I was in Doha when I made the decision that I was going to resign.

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"Psychologically I was in a bad place and I know Bernard has been in a bad place for several months now, because this has been going on since February 2021 and it hasn't been resolved. Nobody has stood up and supported me or supported Bernard. I think Sport Ireland has a lot to answer for."

8 August 2021; Kellie Harrington of Ireland and Ireland boxing high performance director Bernard Dunne celebrate with her gold medal after victory over Beatriz Ferreira of Brazil in their women's lightweight final bout at the Kokugikan Arena during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Walsh continued: "We've got a professional unit inside an amateur organisation. For some reason, they continuously put roadblocks in your way.

"In the United States, they ask you every day 'How can we help you get better?' It's a joy to work there. They give you the autonomy to do your job, and also respect for the role you play. That's the problem in Ireland: They don't have the respect for the role that you play, and they're not giving you autonomy to do your job.

"There's 30 people in [the IABA] central council that come to a meeting once a month and they want to select a team. That's like the Kilkenny county board picking Brian Cody's team.

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"The leaders within the organisation are the same leaders that were there when I left. The same people are there and they are allowing this to happen - or, they're part of what's happening.

"It should be about the athletes, but unfortunately the IABA has not made it about the athletes, it's about them, and their egos - it's about power and control.

"There was no action taken after this malicious document was released just as the team was trying to qualify for the Olympic Games. Still no action has been taken about it. How can they say that they don't agree when they didn't [do anything about it]? The inaction proved otherwise."

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Walsh said that he believes Dunne is now "in a better place now that he's made a decision".

"The turmoil to leave your dream job was daunting for me, and I know Bernard has had similar problems dealing with it," he said.

"He thinks he's made the right decision. At this stage, I don't think he's going to come back. What has gone on has gone on for too long. They're closing the gate after the horse has bolted."

Featured image: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

See Also: Can You Get 10/10 In Our Quiz Of The GAA Weekend?

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