Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland boxer Wallace ends legal battle for Commonwealth Games inclusion

By Alan Erwin

A champion boxer has ended his High Court bid to be reinstated to Northern Ireland's Commonwealth Games team.

Conor Wallace's lawyers said he faced an "insurmountable" hurdle because the deadline for registration had passed.

It was also claimed that he had been dropped after somebody "buckled under pressure from vigilante groups" - an assertion categorically rejected by the sporting body who selected the team.

Outside court the Newry fighter spoke of his devastation at being unable to compete in Australia next month.

He said: "I'm gutted, but I wouldn't want this to disrupt the other athletes. I just want to wish the rest of them all the best."

Despite withdrawing injunction proceedings, Mr Wallace's lawyers confirmed he will be pursuing a claim for damages over the alleged unlawfulness of his deselection earlier this month.

He originally went to court seeking an order reversing the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council's decision to drop him from the team heading to the Gold Coast.

At the time police said they were investigating a complaint against a 21-year-old from the Newry area.

Mr Wallace denies any wrongdoing and has not been arrested or questioned.

An Ulster light-heavyweight amateur champion, he gained further recognition after working with UFC Superstar Conor McGregor at a 2016 training camp in America.

The case brought against the Council were originally put on hold amid attempts to mediate a resolution.

Counsel for the boxer indicated he was willing to live apart from other athletes in a bid to get back onto the team.

But those attempts ended after the London-based Commonwealth Games Federation confirmed its rules do not allow late entry for athletes after the registration deadline.

With other boxers already in Australia training and sparring, Mr Wallace's barrister also accepted it could be disruptive for him to join them.

Ronan Lavery QC said: "There are obstacles here which have been placed before him which are insurmountable at this stage."

The court heard Mr Wallace was originally notified of his place on the team in January.

Later that month, however, he was subjected to publicity after being confronted by what his lawyer described as a self-styled vigilante group.

In February his boxing association allegedly issued a "stand down order" prohibiting any activities which would involve minors.

According to Mr Lavery his client did not challenge that requirement because only adult boxers are competing at the Commonwealth Games.

Counsel claimed NI Commonwealth Games Council then advised Mr Wallace in early March that he should withdraw from participation.

"He made it absolutely clear he had no intention to do so - it was something he had worked for and trained for, a significant moment in his career," the barrister said.

It was further alleged that vigilantes announced the boxer's deselection on social media before he was notified himself.

Mr Lavery added: "The circumstances in which this original decision was made by the first defendant (the NI Commonwealth Games Council) are a matter of concern for him.

"Particularly as it seems to Mr Wallace that somebody has buckled under pressure from vigilante groups."

Responding to the claims, the Council's barrister said it "strongly objected to any suggestion that any decision making on its part was at all motivated by the actions of some third party vigilante paedophile hunters".

He insisted its actions were at all times based on child protection issues and the ongoing police investigation.

Referring to the continuing bid to have the deselection declared unlawful, he contended: "To persist with the case in the circumstances is just a face-saving exercise and not a good use of public funds."

Before formally drawing the injunction application to a close, Mr Justice Maguire told the parties: "I'm not getting into a situation where the court is being used as a place to ventilate press releases."

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