Statement by TUV leader Jim Allister:
“Today’s comments by the Culture Minister during question time when she dismissed a letter she hadn’t read as “gossip” were nothing short of scandalous.
“For her information, the fact that someone of the standing within amateur boxing internationally of Ray Rodgers has come out and backed Sandy Row and called for a Northern Ireland Amateur Boxing Association is highly significant. I have long argued that there is no reason why two organisations couldn’t operate within Northern Ireland and Mr Rodgers cites an interesting model to follow. As he points out:
“The formation of a Northern Ireland Amateur Boxing Association would be an ideal way to serve the needs and desires of the boxers. As an example, Golden Gloves of America, Inc. is a separate and distinct organisation from USA Amateur Boxing, Inc. which is our national governing body. I highly recommend this solution. Hopefully this would heal much of the divisive sectarianism in Northern Ireland Amateur Boxing”.
“His scathing criticism of the Minister’s attempts to starve Sandy Row of funding is also highly significant.
“Minister Cullan would do well to consider the negative impact which her sectarian attitude towards the young boxers in Sandy Row is having on the image of Northern Ireland. There is indeed “absolutely no place in amateur boxing for inequality of … any type, including the withholding of funds.”
“It is testament to the quality of Sandy Row Boxing Club that someone of Ray Rodgers’s status within the sport speaks so highly of the coaches and their professionalism.
“Cullan’s dismissal of the contribution of such a significant figure on the global boxing scene as “gossip” exposes her own bigotry and is unbecoming of a sport’s Minister.
“She would be better reading and reflecting upon Ray Rodgers comments before reacting in such a fashion.”
Ian McSorley, the Secretary of Sandy Row ABC added:
“Golden Gloves of America is a highly significant organisation having organised tournaments since 1923. The Golden Gloves program has led the way in promoting amateur boxing in the United States and has produced the majority of competitors for America’s boxing teams in the Olympic Games.
“Ray Rodgers has been a longstanding friend of the club and we are delighted that he has given his backing to our cause in such a public and emphatic way.
“Sandy Row Amateur Boxing wanted to develop the personal character and boxing skills of young people as Ray points out. That was and is our reason to be and he saw that when he visited.
“Sadly we have experienced sectarian abuse of the worst kind, inaction from the boxing authorities and discrimination when it came to funding from the Minister.
“The recent report into amateur supported Sandy Row’s claims that sectarianism is a problem within boxing as currently constituted in Northern Ireland.
“Some would foolishly suggest that we should go back into the Irish Amateur Boxing Association – this in spite of the fact that a year and a half after the Club produced a report detailing the abuse we suffered and one month after an independent report vindicated our claims no one from the IABA has contacted the Club, much less apologised.
“It is our strong opinion that Ray Rodgers has shown the way forward on this issue. We also very much hope that the Minister will take note of his comments in relation to funding but regardless of what happens with the funding Sandy Row isn’t going to die. We are a strong and growing club and will continue to develop.”