Irish Shooting Politics

October 19, 2010

SSAI Questions and Answers meeting

Filed under: Politics — Mark Dennehy @ 12:16 am

For reasons that will become obvious at the end, this is just a preliminary note on what happened at this weekend’s SSAI Q&A meeting.

The meeting itself was fairly poorly attended. I would have thought, given that 98 questions were submitted by NASRPC members (and a few from non-NASRPC members), that there would have been more people there, but there were only twenty or so people present when the meeting began at 1120; several of whom had not submitted questions (in all, only about half of those who had submitted questions turned up and only two passed on apologies). However, then I noticed that there was a distinctly skewed distribution in the questions/poser ratio:

 

SSAI Questions By Poser (Anonymous Version)

SSAI Questions By Poser (Anonymous Version)

 

In fact, more than half the questions came from just four people.

 

SSAI Question Posers by percentage of questions asked (anonymous version)

SSAI Question Posers by percentage of questions asked (anonymous version)

 

Given that a well-attended NASRPC competition would see almost thirty people enter, and that the overall NASRPC membership is much higher, I do wonder why four or five people seem to be the only ones with many questions; and it was clear from the questions (and their posers) that this was not a case where people were acting as representatives at the meeting for other people (quite apart from which was the point that such a hierarchial representation was unnecessary as this was intended to be a direct-from-membership-to-the-chairman communications channel).

Observing those seated in the room, my initial thoughts were, I admit, somewhat less than charitable. By my count, of the twenty or so attendees, some six or seven had personal axes to grind against the current SSAI chairman; and indeed in several cases, that axe was no secret, and was in fact a matter of public record on shooting.boards.ie. For example, one of the least civil of the attendees during the meeting had an exceptionally public tantrum when he was not selected to be the SSAI’s FCP representative a scant few years ago, writing letters of protest to every NGB, starting internet petitions and writing to the FCP itself, thus damaging the appearance of the SSAI and the shooting panel as a whole (meaning the SSAI, the NTSA, the ICPSA, the NARGC and their memberships) in the eyes of those the shooting panel would be attempting to negotiate with. It was at this point that I felt that those in the long tail of the questions/posers graph above might be given short service while the meeting dealt with the louder attendees; and alas, a measure of this did occur. I lay the blame for this firmly at the feet of the louder attendees however; it has no other logical home.

Going through the questions themselves — and ignoring the vissitudes of the English language as it’s never really certain if there’s a valid reason for the errors otherwise encountered, such as dyslexia or other learning difficulties and to criticise on such grounds would be uncharitable at best — there was a degree of duplication which was to be expected; but also a very high degree of confrontationalism in the phrasing chosen and plain ignorance of facts that have been publicly disseminated already, several years previously in some cases. Some of the questions were not so much questions as personal assertions that the current chairman was unfit for purpose. While there have been meetings in the past in other bodies where such comments have been made with justification (after long attempts to rectify the situation through less melodramatic means), I think it’s fair to say that the record of the past few years shows that in this case, that assertion was asinine at best. The fact that a senior IFA representative attended to support the chair, along with the head of the sadly now defunct Irish IPSC NGB – the group who undeniably have lost the most in the recent legislative changes and who have perhaps the greatest case for unfair treatment to bring – says volumes to the record of the chair.

The mood once the meeting began was both petty and ugly from the beginning. Stilted formalisms and passive-aggressive tone and phrasing was the order of the day for the initial few minutes, and frankly, after ten years of having done my stint in our sport’s administration, I think I have to rate this amongst the top four or five examples of ridiculously childish behaviour by adults whose physical age should preclude such actions.

Personally, I was present to record and disseminate that recording and so my aim was to remain silent for the majority of the meeting; with the sole exception of providing a single point of information (that “IOC shooting” encompasses not only ISSF shooting disciplines but also those from the IBU and the UIPM), I managed (despite very strong temptation to give vent to the exasperation the hypocrisy level of some attendees created) to achieve this goal. I’m unsure whether I should feel pride or surprise at this.

However, the usual (and I say usual because it has become a running gag at this stage) protest from the usual suspects, led by the normal troublemaker, was put forward (together with an impromptu vote that managed to lose by two votes by my count); namely that a boards.ie representative (myself) was present to record the meeting and that this would have the effect of damaging the SSAI as it would publicise information that should remain secret from the Department of Justice and An Garda Siochana, as well as the public at large.

There are three points to be made in response to that:

  • The floor actually had no say in the matter. The recording and dissemination was requested by the chair. The floor was comprised of people who were not all members of the SSAI – and the practice of ignoring voting rights and representation mechanisms is something best left back in 2004. Even when the vote is lost.
  • It’s hard to keep a report on what the SSAI said to the DoJ secret from the DoJ when the DoJ was a party to the original communications. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible by definition.
  • It has been a perennial complaint since at least 1999 in every meeting I’ve ever attended on shooting administration that more communication is needed from the top table to the membership. And it has been a genuine problem for that entire time, and it remains so and will always remain so; more transparent communications is something that must always be striven for. Which begs the question (especially as this complaint was also made at the meeting) – how can you have better communications with the rank-and-file when the top table won’t allow dissemination of information through existing channels?

This was, perhaps, the point where I was most taxed to refrain from falling from my chair laughing.

Nonetheless, the chair agreed to make a decision after the meeting rather than before it. And so until the chair decides to release the files, the audio and visual recordings will remain sequestered.

The meeting itself took so long (five hours in total by my count), that only some highlights such as the above can be commented on without an overly long post here; and given the lateness of the hour, I will end my account at this point for now and report further later.

Though I do think that proof should be provided that the mood was felt to be somewhat adversarial 🙂

Gallows humour

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1 Comment

  1. […] regular readers have already heard, there was recently a Questions and Answers session held in public by the SSAI Chairman, mainly (though not exclusively) for members of the National Association of Sporting Rifle and […]

    Pingback by Applying for grants improperly « Irish Shooting Politics — June 8, 2011 @ 4:33 pm


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