For the legion of Katie Taylor fans around Ireland – and in many other countries – this morning’s Sunday Independent article on Katie has come as something of a shock. Not the usual front page one showing her with yet another Gold medal being greeted at Dublin Airport by politicians and media, many of whom have never even seen her fight on foreign soil.
Having seen her on various TV shows and in competitions throughout the world, many would have been forgiven for believing that she – like many of her Olympic competitors – would have had access to all the best facilities available in her quest for World and Olympic honours.
So the headline “Katie’s gym has no toilet or shower” will have shocked those who have never been to the Bray Boxing Club. Of course that is not to say that she does not have access to all of the ‘best available’ equipment and advice when away on a “training camp” overseas and of course she enjoys the best available facilities at the National Stadium. Nonetheless she is at her home base in Bray , much more than she is away.
Of course those who know the difficulties that Taylor has overcome to become champion of the World on four occasions and champion of Europe five times will have known, will have been aware of all that she – and her family – have sacrificed over the many years she has represented Ireland with pride and passion not only in boxing but as an international soccer player too. Small comfort but at least she does not have to train in the family kitchen any longer!
But then she would tell us that it was those family sacrifices that have helped her become the great champion she is today.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny paid a brief visit to Bray this week when seeking support round the country for the “YES” campaign in the forthcoming European fiscal vote. He certainly looked shocked when he visited Bray BC and met up with the champion’s Coach and Dad, Peter.
The Sunday Independent put it in these terms:
“World champ Katie Taylor has been training in a gym that doesn’t have a toilet or shower, while many look on in awe at government cash flowing into Mayo — the political heartland of Enda Kenny and Sports Minister Michael Ring.
The Taoiseach was left red-faced when he visited Bray boxing club where Katie and fellow boxing olympian Garda Adam Nolan have to dash off to the nearby ‘Harbour Bar’ if they want to spend a penny.
Katie’s father Peter, who also trains Gda Nolan, said: “I think the Taoiseach was very shocked and maybe a bit ashamed when he saw it. He told me to put in an application for the club under the next round of sports grants and he would make sure it would be looked after.”
The Mayo constituency was a big recipient of Lottery-funded capital sports grants getting €678,000 last year.
The allocation for Mayo was twice the allocation given to Dublin, and Mayo moved from ninth to fourth in the Lotto grants league table based on grant aid per head of population.
Mr Ring’s political power base of Westport received three Lotto grants totalling €230,000.”
Nothing much has changed it seems in Irish sports grants distribution from the days of John O’Donoghue when most of the grants went to his native Kerry.Time surely that future distribution of grants should not be handled by government ministers irrespective of party or where they are from but an independent panel who make decisions based purely on sporting needs?.
But wait, did not the Government give a significant one off grant to the IABA to meet needs such as better facilities, which surely include a toilet and shower in Bray boxing club?
This is what the Dept of Transport,Tourism and Sport said on 18 July 2011 as reported by SportsNewsIreland at the time:
“A one-off grant of €1.25 million to improve facilities at boxing clubs, and in particular to provide accommodation for female boxers, has been announced today (Monday) by Michael Ring, the Minister of State for Tourism and Sport.
The special allocation is being administered by the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA).
“This special allocation is a fitting gesture to mark the centenary of the IABA and recognises that boxing is by far Ireland’s most successful Olympic sport,” Minister Ring said.
“It also acknowledges the fact that many boxing clubs operate in facilities which are in poor condition and lack basic facilities. This special allocation is an important step in helping to ensure that young people will be able to train in decent facilities which are fit for purpose.”
”Many boxing clubs operate in facilities which are in poor condition and lack basis facilities”. Like a toilet or shower perhaps?
Perhaps Minister Ring can now tell us if indeed that grant was paid to the IABA and if so when? If not, why not?
And if it was then let the IABA tell us how and where this money was spent, and especially how the €1.25 million (or at least a very large part of it) was used to benefit the ” many boxing clubs (that) operate in facilities which are in poor condition and lack basic facilities” and especially what has been done to meet the requirement “in particular to provide accommodation for female boxers” throughout Ireland?
Speaking on the Marian Finucane show (RTE Radio) on Sunday morning, however,the Minister of Transport,Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar said the grant given to the club this year had only been intended to cover the cost of installing a toilet and shower – and said a more comprehensive refitting of the gym would to be covered by separate funding at a later date.
“We allocated around €1.5 million specifically for boxing clubs, specifically because they’re so strong in disadvantaged areas, and specifically for women’s boxing,” the Minister said.
Varadkar acknowledged that the club ” probably does not currently have access to toilet or shower” – ‘work is underway’ on dealing with that he said.
Varadkar later suggested that another grant was in the process of being arranged with Bray Town Council though he strongly refuted the newspaper’s allegations.
“If you read that paper you’d get the impression that nothing was being done,” Varadkar told Marian Finucane saying : “We’re doing everything we can, within reason, to support Katie Taylor – and the whole country is behind her.”
The Irish sporting public ie: the taxpayer, has a right to know (a) if this money, be it €1.25 million (Mr Ring’s original estimate) or around €1.5 million ,as Mr Varadkar now says was given to the IABA (b) when and (c) if it was how was it spent, who were the beneficiaries and where can one see the benefits?
Mr Ring,is quoted by the Independent as having recently announced a €25,000 grant to Ballyhaunis Boxing Club in Mayo adding : “I am hopeful that this money will upgrade the existing facilities at the boxing club and encourage more people to take up boxing”. Ballyhaunis BC, like Geesala BC,like Bray BC are among some of the most deserving causes for sporting grants but if the money was allocated in July 2011 why has the work not yet been completed?
No one is suggesting that any preferential treatment should have been given to Bray than to any other club but this IS Olympic year and priority should have been given to ensuring that boxers like Taylor who carry Irish medal hopes in London 2012 received priority funding allocation for improvement of facilities that would have been in use before London 2012 and not when the Games are over .Time for the IABA to to tell us their side of the story on Monday. Hopefully it will not be a case of “Silence is Golden”.
Here is Katie Taylor being interviewed at Bray Boxing Club by TransWorldSport earlier this month: