I thank Deputies Ó Murchú and Andrews for tabling this matter. The death of João Carvalho in 2016 was an extremely tragic event and it is important that we remind ourselves of all four of the coroner's recommendations that followed. It was recommended: that the endorsement of a national governing body for MMA be expedited; that all medical partners be clinical practice guidelines, CPG, providers; that all medical partners engage nationally qualified paramedics; and that, in the short-term, MMA in Ireland adopt the safety standards for boxing. Before discussing the IMMAA's attempt to be recognised as an NGB for sport, it is important to note the coroner's recommendations in respect of health and safety and the medical care of participants and to state that, as we would all agree, it is always of paramount importance that these recommendations be upheld and that all appropriate procedures and protocols are in place to ensure the safety of participants.
Sport Ireland, which is funded by my Department, is the statutory body with responsibility for the development and promotion of sport, increasing participation at all levels and raising standards. It also has responsibility for the recognition of sports and NGBs of sport. Sport Ireland operates a formal recognition process through which organisations can apply to become recognised as an NGB of sport. This is a means for organisations that are not currently recognised to apply for Sport Ireland recognition and, in turn, to receive support and financial investment from Sport Ireland. The recognition process for achieving the status of being an NGB in Ireland is solely a matter for Sport Ireland, which has the legislative responsibility for the development of sport, as set out in the Sport Ireland Act 2015. Further information is set out on its website.
Since the tragic death of João Carvalho in 2016, Sport Ireland has been in ongoing conversations with the IMMAA and the Irish Martial Arts Commission, IMAC, which is the NGB of sport for martial arts in Ireland, with regard to the development of a relationship between both parties. As part of this process, Sport Ireland established a mixed martial arts working group. The working group included decision makers from both organisations, along with an independent chair and an independent facilitator. Following engagement through 2017, the working group produced a final report. The content of the report was agreed by both IMMAA and IMAC. One of the key recommendations of the working group was for "IMMAA to make an application to IMAC at the earliest opportunity to become a member and to seek the technical support and advice of IMAC on putting in place appropriate guidelines for a modern sporting organisation and member discipline." Notwithstanding this key recommendation in 2017, there was no proactive engagement with, or formal application made to IMAC until 2020.
It should be noted that, since the completion of the report, Sport Ireland has remained available to the IMMAA and has met with representatives of both it and its international federation on a number of occasions throughout 2018, 2019 and 2020. Each NGB establishes its own criteria for potential affiliates as independent autonomous organisations. A primary requirement for IMAC affiliation is that the organisation's international federation be a member of the Global Association of International Sports Federations. This is also a minimum criterion with the Sport Ireland recognition criteria. While Sport Ireland does not work directly with international federations, it is aware that a mixed martial arts federation has been unsuccessful in its application for membership of the Global Association of International Sports Federations.
In April 2021, Sport Ireland undertook to recommence the work of the working group. The same independent chair, Professor Jack Anderson, and independent facilitator, Morgan Buckley, will support the work of the group. The preparation work of the working group has commenced, with all parties having agreed to take part in the process. Further meetings involving IMAC and the IMMAA are scheduled for June.
As I said previously, I have no direct role in the recognition of national governing bodies of sport. However, I assure the Deputies that Sport Ireland, as the statutory body with responsibility for such matters, has been engaging with the IMMAA since 2016 and will continue to do so. As I said, that is the process. The Deputies asked about that. I believe we are all agreed that we would like to see progress and clarity on this issue.