By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — A demand by Irish Sports Minister Dr. Jim McDaid that the three main track and field organizations form one overall governing body or risk losing their funding has generated a sharp war of words.
The minister has demanded that the BLE, the NACA and the Irish Schools Athletic Association join up to make government funding more streamlined, but an unnamed official within the BLE responded by saying the organization wouldn’t be sending teams to the World Cross Country championships or the World Indoor championships next month if McDaid isn’t prepared to release money for the international program.
"To get this funding," said the source, "we must sign up to a document which infringes our rights as the only organization licensed to promote international athletics in the Republic of Ireland."
However, McDaid responded by stating the funding was available. "Money for athletics is available and will be forthcoming when the athletics bodies, including the BLE, agree to finalize the joint submission for funding for 1999," he said.
The issue was then further confused when the BLE’s press officer, Patsy McGonigle, contradicted the claims of his own unnamed colleague. "The BLE will be in fact sending teams to the World Indoor championships in Japan and to the World Cross Country championships in Belfast as planned," he said.
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Minister McDaid later added that it would be more helpful for Irish sport if unnamed BLE sources stopped being "confrontational."