Sports Minister Cara Ni Chuilin

STORMONT ASSEMBLY this evening have voted in favour of setting up a Northern Ireland amateur boxing association.

At present boxers from Northern Ireland compete in the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) and cannot compete for the UK at international level.

The vote was taken after the TUV proposed an amendment to a DUP debate on the allocation of funding to clubs in Protestant and Catholic communities.

It follows claims of sectarianism by a mainly Protestant club in Belfast.

Sandy Row boxing club claimed in the summer that its members had been subjected to a decade of “chronic sectarianism” while boxing in nationalist areas.

It published a 57-page report outlining allegations of verbal and physical assaults.

Today’s debate was called by the DUP, which tabled a motion urging the Sinn Fein sports minister Caral Ni Chuilin to ensure funding for boxing was allocated “equitably across all communities”.

She has already confirmed earlir this year that boxing in Northern Ireland was to get a cash injection of £3m.

Michelle McIveen, the DUP chair of Stormont’s culture committee, told MLAs that the minister needed to show she “acts for all” when it came to funding decisions.

She said that in the Catholic area of west Belfast, there were 11 clubs within a three mile radius.

Ms McIlveen added that there were fewer clubs in Protestant areas, which in turn led to fewer Protestants taking part in the sport.

The DUP MLA said: “Sectarianism in boxing needs to be addressed as a barrier to participation.”

TUV leader Jim Allister amended DUP boxing motion

TUV leader Jim Allister said his amendment did not take anything from the original DUP motion, but instead added recognition of the Sandy Row report and his “regrets over the council’s (Belfast City Council) failure to address the issue of sectarianism”.

Mr Allister also said the establishment of a Northern Ireland amateur boxing association would give local boxers the opportunity to compete for the UK at international level.

The SDLP also tabled an amendment to the original DUP motion, however it was not voted on, as it would have changed the meaning of Mr Allister’s amendment which members had voted to pass.

Its proposer, South Down MLA Karen McKevitt, said she wanted to replace the call for developing boxing in working class Protestant areas, with a proposal for funding to be allocated on the basis of need.

Sinn Fein’s Cathal O Hoisin said he would have supported this amendment.

“Funding should be allocated not because of whether the club is Protestant of Catholic, or unionist or nationalist, but regardless of it,” he said.

Chris Lyttle of the Alliance said he believed the values of “good relations and equality” should govern the sport and that the SDLP amendment best reflected this.

The UUP’s Michael McGimpsey said he supported both amendments and he did not see “a contradiction”.

He said he was aware of repeated incidents of discrimination and sectarianism against the Sandy Row boxing club and its members.

Responding to the debate, Ms Ni Chuilin said that sectarianism on boxing needed to be challenged and condemned.

“No child should be subject to that type of abuse and let me be clear about that,” she said.

“We all have a duty to confront sectarianism.”

The minister added that she was “quite pleased with the tone of the debate” and she believed it was clear that everyone valued the role that boxing played.

She insisted to the assembly that Sandy Row boxing club could access funding for boxing as it was affiliated with Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) in the last three years.

The motion, amended by Mr Allister, was passed with 48 voting for and 42 voting against.

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