Friday 30 September 2016

Leading Fianna Fail TDs say it is 'totally inappropriate' for FAI boss John Delaney to canvas for Environment Minister Alan Kelly

Niall O'Connor, Political Correspondent

Published 19/01/2016 | 13:33

FAI chief executive John Delaney urged voters in Tipperary to
FAI chief executive John Delaney urged voters in Tipperary to "remember" the projects delivered for the constituency by Environment Minister Alan Kelly.
FAI Chief Executive John Delaney Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Two leading members of Fianna Fáil have expressed their shock at the decision by FAI Chief John Delaney to openly canvass on behalf of Environment Minister Alan Kelly.

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Former minister and Limerick TD Willie O'Dea described Mr Delaney's actions as "extraordinary" and called on the Government to clarify the rules surrounding canvassing by the heads of public bodies.

"While I know that Alan Kelly could use all the help he is getting from any particularly source, I think it is totally inappropriate. I think it is absolutely inappropriate. Quite frankly, I've never heard anything like it," he said.

"If this was happening in reverse, if say John Delaney or somebody in the IRFU came around Limerick with me canvassing and urging people to vote for me...what would Alan Kelly have made of that?"

His party colleague, Fianna Fáil chief whip Séan Ó Fearghail, said Mr Delaney's high profile should exclude him from canvassing on behalf of a government minister.

"Some people would claim that a person could take these actions in a private capacity, but somebody who has the profile of John Delaney can't go out and endorse somebody who is totally discredited."

Earlier, SinnFéin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has said it was “not appropriate” for FAI Chief John Delaney to be actively canvassing for Environment Minister Alan Kelly.

Speaking outside the Dáil today, Ms McDonald said there would be a completely different reaction from Government if Mr Delaney was seen canvassing on behalf of a Sinn Féin or Fianna Fáil politician.

The Dublin Central TD said she views the situation as a “friend giving a dig out to another friend” and that she believes the decision by Mr Delaney will go down badly among the wider soccer following.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate that he would be out advocating for Alan Kelly...Bear in mind he heads up an organisation that represents people of all political persuasions and none,” Ms McDonald told reporters.

“I read this as a friend giving a dig out to another friend. It’s very clear that Alan Kelly has made an absolute mess of his ministry, whether you look at water, whether you look at housing. And I don’t think a dig out from John Delaney at the eleventh hour will necessarily save his skin. But if you’re asking me do I believe it is appropriate, no I do not,” she added.

Mr Delaney, who earns a reported annual salary of around €400,000, joined the Labour Party deputy leader on a visit to North Tipperary on Saturday.

During an interview with Tipperary Mid-West radio, Mr Delaney urged voters in Tipperary to “remember” the projects delivered for the constituency by Mr Kelly when they vote in the upcoming General Election.

The controversial football boss repeatedly highlighted Mr Kelly’s record in a clear indication of his support for the Labour Party deputy leader.

“As (the) election comes and people get near to making decisions, I think it’s always important to have a minister, irrespective what party you represent, in your county because ultimately people deliver,” Mr Delaney told sports correspondent Stevie O’Donnell.

Mr Delaney suggested that more projects will be delivered for the constituency in the coming weeks.

“A lot of people often say to me: ‘Well you’ve done a lot for Tipperary town and St Michael’s football club and clubs around the country.’ Well you do that because of personal connection to the clubs. It’s your job to do but also because you are in a position to do it. And Alan is in a position to help the county and he has done that with the big announcement in the Silvermines just recently and maybe a few more to come in the coming weeks or so,” he said.

“That’s my message, thank him for the support of the soccer clubs and also hopefully people, when you announce it Alan, when the election is coming, that people remember that.  Because a minister is hugely important in any county to deliver for that county,”he added.

Meanwhile, Agriculture and Defence Minister Simon Coveney described Mr Delaney’s actions as a little bit unsual”.

“I think it is a little unusual that a CEO of a big organisation is out actively canvassing for someone, but we live in a democracy and John Delaney is entitled to canvass like anybody else,” Mr Coveney said.

His party colleague, Meath East TD Helen McEntee, described the move as a "bit odd".

"I've seen it before but then again, it's a free country I suppose."

Fianna Fáil's spolkesperson on Transport and Sport, Timmy Dooley, described the move as a "political stunt" by Mr Kelly.

"I’m sure he (Kelly) is delighted he has a diversionary tactic of this story of John Delaney, it is a side track issues. What Alan Kelly needs to do is stand up and discuss his appalling handling of Irish Water and the failure to address housing crisis," he said.

"Knowing John Delaney like I do, I’m surprised he’d want to put himself in harms way to be associated with the policies pursued by Alan Kelly."

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