The IHPA has been officially reinstated as the National Governing Body for the sports of Hang Gliding and Paragliding in Ireland.
In the early 2000s IHPA was recognised by the Irish Sports Council (ISC) as the NGB (National Governing Body) for hang gliding and paragliding. We received small annual grants, occasional capital grants and formal recognition. Some other airsports were also recognised e.g. ballooning, parachuting, etc. However, there followed in 2003 a “Night of the Long Knives” in which many small NGBs, including IHPA , were de-recognised by ISC simply because we were, individually, too small. Mick Butler, Stephen Gaughan and I met with ISC and they advised us to follow the example of athletics and equestrian sports who are recognised through an umbrella body.
IHPA’s umbrella body is National Aero Club of Ireland (NACI) so I then got involved with them and was elected Director / Treasurer. All the airsports supported my plan to apply to ISC for recognition. They comprised 1,600 pilots from hang gliding, paragliding, ballooning, microlighting, fixed-wing gliding, parachuting, general aviation, aerobatics, constructors and aeromodellers. All the airsports then had to modify their Memos & Articles to comply with ISC’s child protection protocol and the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) requirements. This took ages but was all done and I formally submitted in July 2006 and waited, and waited and waited. We did get a long list of queries back to which we responded in great detail and still no response.
Eventually, last September we got a meeting with the ISC Eligibility Sub-Committee of their board and that is unusual in that it’s not usually permitted. Tom McCormack, John Molloy and I made a strong case and we were very well received – especially by ISC Director Jim Glennon and ISC Official Troy Reneker. FAI is Fédération Aéronautique Internationale - the world air sports federation and in early October NACI hosted the FAI General Conference in CityWest with 190 delegates from around the world. At the conference the Minister announced that we had been successful so IHPA is now officially recognised at the NGB for hang gliding and paragliding (as are all but one of the other NACI airsports). We didn’t want to publicly announce this until the legal agreements were signed and executed and that has now been done.
Unfortunately, ISC felt that aeromodelling doesn’t comply with the EU definition of “sport” but we pointed out that ISC have already recognised snooker, angling and baton-twirling! MACI is the aeromodelling NGB and we are going back to ISC to progress their recognition application as aeromodelling is widely recognised as an airsport in the EU and around the world. Also, aeromodelling has a key educational role and is a feeder for the other airsports. Aeromodellers (i.e. MACI) account for half of all NACI pilots so they are a key member of NACI.
All in all this is a great outcome for NACI and IHPA and once we serve our probationary period of 2 years we will be able to apply for grants to support the development of our sports (in 2012).