Boxing club frustrated in bid to improve women’s facilities

Paulstown Boxing Club is in a standoff with the local development association over its plans to improve facilities for the club’s female members.

Paulstown Boxing Club is in a standoff with the local development association over its plans to improve facilities for the club’s female members.

Club members have said they are being impeded in their efforts to build female changing rooms, and now risk losing a €25,000 grant allocated to it for that purpose. The dispute is unfolding in the shadow of a historic moment for the club as its most famous son, Darren O’ Neill, prepares to represent Ireland in the Olympic Games.

Following the Paulstown man’s high-profile successes, the club has seen a surge in members in recent months. Many of these are young women – two of whom are now national champions.

The club has nine female boxers, who currently change in the toilets due to lack of private changing rooms. Following a visit to the club, the Irish Amateur Boxing Association allocated a €25,000 grant to provide an extension with changing facilities for the female boxers.

But the club says that the Paulstown Development Association, which controls the community facility in which the club is based, has been less than helpful in progressing plans. There are fears now that the grant allocation will be withdrawn or allocated elsewhere if it is not used soon.

“We have the funding still, but we don’t know how long we can hold onto it,” said Carmel O’Neill, mother of Olympian Darren. “It would be a huge shame if we were to lose this.”

However, Paulstown Development Association chairman Ben Healy has dismissed the notion that the present female changing facilities are inadequate. He points to the two hurling changing rooms in the community centre, which he says should be used instead.

Mr Healy says that a meeting will take place in mid-July, at which time the issue may be put to a public vote within the parish. But the club says that the issue is simply being kicked further down the road, with requests for meetings being constantly deferred.

The initial obstacle in the process was that the development association specified any extension must have an apex roof. Such a roof would have cost the club an additional €6,500 to build than what was envisaged, and this was over-budget.

However, Ms O’Neill now says the club has now agreed to the roof, following consultations with engineer Jim Kiely.

“We don’t want to fall out with people over this, we just want to develop boxing here,” she said. “We are not looking for a penny from them, but they should be trying to help us – they are a development association.”

This year, the club is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its founding. Head coach Ollie O’ Neill has been a member of the club since its foundation in 1972, and says he cannot understand what the obstacles are.

“If we could just get these (rooms), we have a very, very small space, and this would make a huge difference,” he said.

Cllr Michael O’ Brien (Lab) says it is up to the two groups to resolve their difference and progress the project.

“It would be a real shame if we cannot get a consensus on this,” he said. “It is a fantastic setup, and we have to be proud of what the club has done. I sincerely hope that sense will prevail and this can be resolved.”

The issue of funding to boxing clubs has taken centre stage in recent weeks, following Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s visit to world champion boxer Katie Taylor’s club in Bray. The Taoiseach was said to be shocked when he discovered that the club has neither a toilet nor a shower.