By Patrick Markey
Take your corners for round one.
The gloves have come off as a bareknuckle rumble is brewing over a joint G_rda Sfoch_na and New York Police Department charity boxing match in the Big Apple.
Irish American activists are outraged over a decision to allow five boxers from the Royal Ulster Constabulary to join the g_rda team when they come to fight in New York in March.
“This is clearly and blatantly an attempt to get the New York Police to condone and cover up the horrible RUC record,” according to Father Se_n McManus, of the Washington-based Irish National Caucus.
McManus has called on city officials and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to take a stand against the RUC’s participation. Others are equally strident in their criticism.
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One long-time Irish American activist, who asked not to be named, said the visit has caused quite a stir: “The community is very unhappy with this. People and organizations are talking with each other with the primary hope that this invitation be rescinded.”
The event that has certain Irish American blood boiling is an annual charity boxing tournament between the g_rda and the NYPD. Teams fight both in New York and Dublin. This year’s event will benefit an NYPD officer who was critically injured when he was struck by a drunken driver.
This will be the first time the RUC has been invited to the event.
But fight organizers say the charity boxing match should not stir up a political storm.
“I had my reservations. I know there is some grumblings. I don’t want to make this into a political thing, but to make some money for a guy in need and have some fun,” said Officer Lee Packtor, who works out of a Spanish Harlem precinct and is the NYPD boxing coach.
In May last year, the NYPD team traveled to Belfast and suffered a bruising 7-2 loss against the RUC team. At that time, the g_rda said they wanted to return to New York as a joint team with the RUC, Packtor said.
“When we were over in Belfast they really rolled out the red carpet. And if it is good enough for the g_rdaf, it’s good enough for me,” Packtor said.
A g_rda spokesman did not return calls seeking comment before press time. But an RUC spokesman said he had been made aware of the criticisms.
“It’s a sporting matter as far as we are concerned,” he said.