Wednesday 28 September 2016

Opposition demands that probe has power to compel witnesses

Published 24/08/2016 | 02:30

Opposition warned Sports Minister Shane Ross public is ‘understandably sceptical’. Photo: Arthur Carron
Opposition warned Sports Minister Shane Ross public is ‘understandably sceptical’. Photo: Arthur Carron

Opposition parties want the inquiry into the Rio ticket scandal to have the power to compel witnesses - even if that means recalling the Dáil from its summer recess.

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Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Labour Party have separately written to Sports Minister Shane Ross insisting an investigation without statutory power may never get to the bottom of the Olympic controversy.

In a submission, seen by the Irish Independent, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the public "are understandably sceptical" about the likelihood of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) co-operating with the judge-led inquiry.

He said the advice of the Attorney General that a non-statutory inquiry would be the best approach "at this stage" has to be respected, but "we have concerns that such an inquiry would lack powers of compellability of witnesses and access to documentary evidence".

"In the event of full co-operation not being forthcoming from individuals or organisations under investigation, I believe the Government should keep open the option of converting to a statutory inquiry," Mr Martin wrote.

Sinn Féin's spokeswoman on sport Imelda Munster went further, saying the style of probe outlined by the minister to date would be "flawed since it may never be able to establish the full facts of the matter".

"We therefore believe that an independent judicial inquiry with statutory powers to compel both witnesses and evidence would be the most appropriate option in order to formally and legally investigate the matter and get to the truth," she said in her submission.

Mr Ross and Minister of State Patrick O'Donovan are expected to announce which ex-judge will lead the inquiry today.

Sources said this person will be able to give "their stamp" on the terms of reference before they are announced.

However, the ministers believe they do not need to give the judge power to compel witnesses, as the key groups involved - the OCI, THG and PRO10 - have all committed to full co-operation.

Fianna Fáil's spokesman on sport Robert Troy told the Irish Independent he was concerned their co-operation may wane over the 12 weeks of the inquiry.

He said the ministers should include the possibility of upgrading the probe to a statutory inquiry if the judge meets problems and this should be included in the terms of reference.

"If it's included in the terms of reference, the threat of it should be enough. The Dáil can be reconvened if need be," he said.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin hit out at the ministers, accusing them of a "mock consultation exercise".

Irish Independent

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