Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Call to form boxing federation

A Northern Ireland Boxing Federation has been called for

The Assembly has called for the establishment of a Northern Ireland Boxing Federation to allow local fighters to compete for the UK at international level.

MLAs also sent a clear message that sectarianism in sport was unacceptable.

Sandy Row Boxing Club has claimed its fighters faced intimidation from nationalist supporters of the sport over the past decade. The alleged physical and verbal assaults, from followers rather than participants, took place while their boxers were fighting in places like west Belfast in the 10 years to 2010.

TUV leader Jim Allister told the chamber: "If these young people have the ability and achieve competition results, they can attain the ultimate and compete for and on behalf of their own nation, and instead of having to wrap themselves in an Irish tricolour when they do so, have the opportunity as everyone else does to take pride in their own flag."

The inner-city Sandy Row club has compiled a 57-page document detailing allegations of a hate campaign. It claims the Irish Amateur Boxing Association has not adequately addressed the concerns. The association has said its ethos is in no way sectarian.

The PSNI has said it was treating a verbal abuse incident in North Queen Street in 2010 as a hate crime. It follows positive attention given to the sport with the victories at the Olympics of Belfast boxers Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan, who took bronze medals for Ireland.

Mr Allister said the problem of sectarianism had been addressed in football. "What is good enough for football is good enough for boxing. Let us see the same proactive action so that young people who take pride in their boxing skills can indeed participate, free from the burden and the cloud of sectarian abuse that, as the Sandy Row report demonstrates, so many have been subjected to for so long," he added.

DUP MLA Michelle McIlveen called upon Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin to ensure funding for boxing is allocated equitably across all communities in Northern Ireland. "Boxing should not be a sport confined simply to some areas of Belfast, or even just to the city as a whole. Provision should be made for the whole of Northern Ireland and opportunities provided for wherever there is demand and need," she said.

Dominic Bradley, SDLP MLA, said funding should be given on the basis of need rather than location. "The report from Sandy Row Amateur Boxing Club on incidents of sectarianism at various boxing venues was very disturbing and I am sure that all interested in the promotion of sport will be eager to ensure that boxing is free from this type of behaviour," he said.

Ms Ni Chuilin said there is no room for sectarianism in boxing or indeed in any sport. Boxing has always been at the forefront of joining communities, she added.

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