Christopher Walker is the general manager of Treacy’s Hotel in Carrickmacross. He sounds exactly as you might expect a manager of a buzzing and bustling hotel to sound like. Pleasant, professional and with the slightly breathy responses of a man who probably has a million and one other things to do than talk to me. The fact that he was so very generous with his time on the phone and answered every question openly speaks to his professionalism and also to his part in the success of running this hotel.
Treacy’s is a four star hotel and a 49 bedroom property with bars, restaurants, and three function rooms. I guess we are really here today to speak about one function room in particular. The function room that almost held an MMA event, Battle Arena 56.
The Carrickmacross hotel is part of a wider group of 5 hotels in the Treacy group and indeed Mr Walker transferred to the Carrickmacross hotel in the autumn of 2018 from one of Treacy’s other hotels – Treacy’s in Waterford. Refreshingly Christopher knows absolutely nothing about MMA or the cast of characters involved with any of the Battle Arena debacle. He’s just a busy man who runs a busy hotel.
Part 1 of this article centred around an e-mail sent to Battle Arena chief James Price. I think it is fair to say the article generated some debate!
One of the things that arose was that on the 4th of July PHECC decided to post on their website that there was an inaccuracy in the original Battle Arena article I wrote in May.
PHECC wish to state that NI Sports Medics Ltd organisation did not, and has never submitted an application to PHECC to become a PHECC recognised Licenced CPG Provider within the Irish State.
I have dealt with this assertion on social media having spoken to NI Sports medics – They categorically say they did send an application. PHECC say they didn’t.
However there is another assertion in the same PHECC news update that is absolutely untrue and erroneous.
Ultimately, the Battle Arena 56 event was cancelled by the hotel management. PHECC are grateful to all who participated in producing this result.
I find this insidious because Keith Cooper pulled the event. Keith Cooper pulled the event because he cares about Safety. Perhaps this is not a convenient narrative to tell the press or inform the public about on a website. Perhaps it’s better to say the hotel pulled the event and continue to imply Battle Arena are a bunch of barbarians at the safety gate.
Cooper could have mangled to together medics and doctors for the event but despite all erroneous comments in the press he would not put on an event where he couldn’t guarantee the IAMMAA safety standards could be met. They couldn’t be met as we have seen because most anyone he approached after NI Sports Medics was “encouraged” not to provide cover. Shane Ross even thanks the Red Cross in his official statement to the press in this regard.
So when I contacted the general manager of Treacy’s it was on this point I wanted to start the conversation. Did they the hotel cancel the event?
” No that’s incorrect. Keith cancelled it himself. We didn’t cancel it.”
How did you find Keith and Battle Arena in terms of someone coming to your hotel to book an event.
” We treated them the very same as any other group booking an event at the hotel. We are running a business. If someone hires a room what they do inside that room is entirely up to them. No different to a bedroom”
I hadn’t though of it that way I must admit!. One of the concerns I had about the unjust tactics used to shut down this event was that it cost a lot of money to a number of people. Obviously Battle Arena were out of pocket but so too the hotel. In terms of the revenue on the night due to the late cancellation. – I was curious as to whether they could estimate how much that could cost.
Chris: Well we lost the Room hire obviously and the food and beverages for the event and there were 10 bedrooms booked.
GON: So it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that the cost was substantial.
Chris: Oh yeah it was….It did make a difference to us. I had already organised staff; we bought extra food and drink in as well.
GON: I guess I am from a similarly sized town to Carrickmacross so I would Imagine like the hotels in Tuam the function room is a big driver of the revenue in the hotel.
Chris: Of Course it is yeah….The room itself was the old Oasis Disco. So it’s a huge room to get set up and get ready for an event like this.”
GON: When did you have inking that something was amiss with this event in terms of people contacting you?
Christopher: Oh only once I started getting e-mails from some Ministers office
GON: It wasn’t Ken Spratt (Department of Sport )by any chance?
Christopher: Yeah it was…yeah
GON: So when you were getting these e-mails what was the tone of them and why were they interested?
Christopher: Well he rang me first before he e-mailed.
Christopher: So he went on about the death of somebody that I knew nothing about. You know. That was mentioned in every email he sent me which he started sending me virtually every day afterwards.
GON: So it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that you felt you were being put under pressure to cancel the event?
Christopher: Oh yeah. but I wasn’t cancelling why should I? – I was under no illusion that I was gonna cancel. I wasn’t going to cancel they showed me all their records (Battle Arena)
GON: In terms of that – Were there any other parties that were trying to influence you?
Christopher: Oh there was yeah. The Fire Chief. Then the Carrickmacross Garda Chief Superintendent. I had lots of people interested in it!
GON: What was the Chief Supers interest particularly?
Christopher: He was more interested in the safety aspects of the event.
GON: The public safety of the room or the safety of the activities and everything?
Christopher: He was interested in all of it. He asked about the public safety, medical staff on hand, hospital on hand etc. Even at that time – that was all in place with Keith. But at every turn they all said they had no authority to tell me to cancel the event. That’s what the Ministers office told me as well.
Gerry: Did they identify themselves as the Ministers Office?
Christopher: Oh they did yeah…yeah…There was something about a minister…I can’t remember his name.
Gerry: Shane Ross?
Christopher: Shane Ross, Yeah that was his name…They said the minister Shane Ross is very concerned…blah..blah..blah..you know.
GON: Did they say that in an email or on the phone?
Christopher: Oh no that was in e-mails
Gerry: So were you able to put the Chief Supers mind at rest?
Christopher: Oh yeah…He was the only one who really wasn’t against the event.
Gerry: Was the week before Keith decided to cancel the event stressful ?
Christopher: I suppose it was…but it’s no different than issues that may come up in dealing with any other group. We have fishing groups and tour groups so to me it was just another event that had to be dealt with
Gerry: In terms of Battle Arena and Keith Cooper I can only assume that you were satisfied you were dealing with responsible people here?
Christopher: Oh I was yeah. I met him a few times. Very, very nice. Very Polite. For such a big fella I didn’t expect him to be as nice as what he was. You know he looks quite frightening on first approach! – He was very polite as I say and he was nothing but courteous to me.
Gerry: That’s been my experience with him and Battle Arena to be honest, in interviews too and that’s part of the reason I am telling their story.
Christopher: You know he supplied me with all the paperwork that he could. Which I then forwarded on to all these different bodies and people.
Gerry: Did you start follow what was going on afterwards. I know the minister came out and said publicly he was glad that the event had been stopped?
Christopher: All that I knew is that Keith had said the medical people had been pulled out. After that he cancelled. After that Its out of my hands and mind. I didn’t think any more of it. I have enough to do without keeping up with things that are cancelled!! At the moment we have loads of coaches tours. English, German and French. A lot of work men that are in the area like King Span, Enochon etc.
Gerry: Roughly how many times did the minsters office or Dept of Sport e-mail? What about 6 or 7 times in the lead up?
Christopher: Oh More than that (laughing)
Gerry: Over 10?”
Christopher: Yeah. Well in fact I can tell you I’ve just pulled the emails in front of me here. Let me see that Spratt fella sent me 15 e-mails.
Gerry: He sent 15 e-mails – Wow.
Christopher: The Director of the National Ambulance service e-mailed…just looking here now. Martin Dunne. There was another one…Something Ireland Sport or something.
Gerry: Sports Ireland?
Christopher: yeah that it. Sports Ireland.
Gerry: What was the gist of what Sports Ireland were saying?
Christopher: I don’t know I am just trying to find them now….I’ve got a folder with like 16 different people that contacted me..
Gerry: Did any of them mention how they found out about the event or why they were contacting you?
Christopher: I have no idea…It was never mentioned. I suspected it came from that Spratt fella…but it’s only an opinion. Most of what everyone was saying was more or less what he was saying.
Christopher then starts quoting from one of the e-mails from Ken Spratt
“”….I also wish to advise that Minister Ross may issue a press release to highlight the dangers of this event…..””
Gerry: So basically that was a warning to you that it would be bad publicity for the hotel
Christopher: As if I cared
Gerry: But I suppose he was hoping you would care?
Christopher: But I didn’t care. I don’t even know who these people are!. I have never even heard of the MMA thing before until Keith came along! – They all said they couldn’t tell me to cancel the event.
Gerry: Ah yes. The old we are not telling you but telling you routine. I have heard it a few times in this arena.
Gerry: I don’t suppose your interest in MMA has been piqued!
Christopher: No….No…..it hasn’t (laughing)”
Gerry: Would you have any problem again if Keith came along again with Battle Arena theoretically?
Keith: No. No problem. At the end of the day we are running a business.
I suppose the reason none of these parties can tell the hotel to cancel the event is that the Department of Sport or Sports Ireland have no remit to do so. They are not the overseers on the subject of safety in sports or indeed implementing safety standards in sport. Yet this is exactly what is being done here to an MMA Event. They are continuing to pressure an Irish business to cancel, what is in essence a private function – on these very grounds. If you don’t believe me on that here are some of their own words on the subject in a deposition at the Joao Carvalho Inquest.
In summation, I must say that Christopher dealt with all the questions in an easy, good humored, relaxed and matter of fact manner and I want to thank him again for his time. During the course of my last article in Part 1 – I raised a number of questions and despite all the debate and subsequent interview not many – if any- have been answered. A lot of the post article commentary has focused around scans.
So this time round I am going to make it real simple. I only have one question.
Why didn’t Ken Spratt, Sports Ireland and all the various people highlighted above, that had such devastating worry about the running of this event do one very simple thing in relation to Battle Arena 56.
Why didn’t any of them Ring or e-mail Keith Cooper, the promoter of the event, with their concerns and queries?
Not one of them did. Not a single one. Almost all the information Keith Cooper was getting about the problems with Battle Arena 56, in this whole mess was coming to him second hand. Is that not mightily curious.
Sometimes the real, true revelation of events lies not merely in what was done but rather in what wasn’t.