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Irish cycling clubs voted against nominating compatriot Pat McQuaid as a candidate in the upcoming UCI presidential elections at Cycling Ireland’s Extraordinary General Meeting on Saturday in Dublin.
The meeting was called to allow clubs in Ireland vote on the nomination after an original decision to back McQuaid by Cycling Ireland’s board members was deemed invalid due to a breach of federation rules at the board meeting.
Instead of simply holding the meeting again and casting the same vote, the Irish governing body bowed to pressure from domestic clubs to allow them a vote on the decision.
On Saturday a low percentage of 188 delegates from 60 Irish cycling clubs turned up to the proceedings, with 91 voting against and 74 voting for the nomination. Debate lasted roughly an hour and saw reasoned arguments from both sides of the divide.
Although the margin suggests a close vote, club members of Cycling Ireland’s board and other commissions, who were in favor of nominating McQuaid, had two votes each, meaning the majority of clubs present were against the nomination.
“We always knew … and I’m speaking for the board, who were in favor of the motion, that the anti-McQuaids, if you’d like to call them that, were the favorites in betting terms,” said Cycling Ireland president Rory Wyley afterward.
“I knew over the past week or two the gap was closing. From my point of view it didn’t close enough. I would have obviously preferred if the motion was carried and became a resolution of the company.
“Most delegates were mandated by the clubs prior to the meeting, so there wasn’t a huge amount of debate. I asked at the start that the discussion take place in a civil and courteous manner and it did.”
The McQuaid issue has loomed over Irish cycling for much of the year and although there have been heated exchanges and serious arguments during the course of the season among various clubs, friends and even families on both sides of the divide, the decision was greeted with a philosophical inevitability by both sides of the camp.
“The sun will set this evening and we’ll get up in the morning … I hope anyway,” said Wyley. “Life goes on. As a national federation, who is president of the UCI doesn’t impact us hugely, directly. We’ve more important things to do. Over in St. Anne’s Park today there’s a Sprocket Rocket family day as part of national bike week. Life goes on.”
Former Cycling Ireland vice president Anthony Moran, who has since resigned his position on the board after the original meeting at which he was the only one to vote against McQuaid, was happy with the result but even happier that most friendships with people on the opposite side of the debate seem have come out of the room unscathed.
“I’d say there are a few people who see me as a traitor,” said the Dubliner. “Some of my friends are pro-McQuaid and I know they’re not happy with me, but hopefully in time that’ll change.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a huge issue. On an international level this is extremely important but at a local level we have other issues, like the police trying to stop us running races in North County Dublin at the moment. These are real issues which affect most grass-roots cyclists and they are the things Cycling Ireland has to address now.”
While McQuaid has now lost the support of his home nation, Moran reckons the current head of the sport will receive a nomination from Swiss Cycling, despite a legal challenge to that process.
“There was a certain degree of apathy out there because of what the Swiss have done. Nobody really knows what they have done exactly, but that took the wind out of our sails a bit and there would have been a lot more clubs represented had this been his only nomination,” said Moran.
“We believe the Swiss haven’t nominated him. We also believe that what they should have done is waited until Cycling Ireland had their EGM and then did whatever they wanted to do.
“The Swiss will nominate him, though. They’ll nominate him tomorrow or Monday, there’s no doubt about that in my mind. He will go on and contest the presidential election in September.
“My love of the sport has dwindled because every single hero I’ve had in cycling from when Pat McQuaid got me into cycling, ironically, by running the 1995 Nissan Classic, all of those heroes have been dopers apart from my local club heroes. That’s 30 years it’s been going on. It’s time now to say, ‘Enough is enough, the young guys going into the sport can have a chance.’ But we’ll see what he does if he does get in.”
A well-known and popular figure in Irish cycling, Tadgh Moriarty runs the Listowel Cycling Club and is race director of the Kerry Group Ras Mumhan. His son Eugene is a former Irish international. Having turned 60 during the week, Moriarty has been involved in Irish cycling since he first held a red flag on a race corner when he was 12 years old.
Moriarty left his home at 5.30 a.m. to get to Saturday’s meeting and vote for McQuaid. While he was visibly disappointed to have lost the vote, the Kerryman was also philosophical about the decision.
“Everybody in this room brought cycling in Ireland to where it is today, young or old,” he said. “Some of us are around longer than others.
“There was a time that I knew everybody in Irish cycling. I must say I knew less than half the people here today. I knew very few of the people that voted against McQuaid. I knew all of the people that voted for McQuaid, so there must be a message there somewhere. Maybe the older brigade are after getting a small push here today and it’s time to let the younger ones take over.”