Sunday 24 September 2017

Sarah Keane elected to take over from Pat Hickey as OCI president

Sarah Keane is the new president of the Olympic Council of Ireland. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Sarah Keane is the new president of the Olympic Council of Ireland. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Sarah Keane is the new president of the embattled Olympic Council of Ireland.

The 43-year-old Swim Ireland chief executive succeeding Pat Hickey (71), whose 28-year reign came to an abrupt end when he was arrested as part of a ticket touting investigation at the Rio Olympics last August.

Ms Keane secured 29 of the 43 votes on offer at an extraordinary general meeting to defeat rival candidates.

Her closest rival was outgoing OCI vice president Willie O’Brien (68), a Hickey loyalist, on 12 votes.

Basketball Ireland chief executive Bernard O’Byrne (67) came a distant third with just two votes.

Much of the meeting was taken up with tributes to Mr Hickey, who was not in attendance.

But this did not translate into votes for his closest ally O’Brien, who had been at his side for 20 years.

After the votes were counted, Ms Keane said: "I just want to say thank you to everyone and that I am here to serve."

“I feel humbled and privileged to have been elected as President of the OCI this evening.

"I am grateful for the support and confidence shown to me by the Olympic Sports Federations and I look forward to working with them the other newly elected officers and Executive Committee members to reform and rebuild the OCI after what has been a very difficult few months for the Olympic movement in Ireland.

"I would also like to thank the Swim Ireland Chair Clare McGrath, the Board and Staff for all their support over the last few months

“I am committed to working with the new Executive Committee and staff of the OCI to put in place administration and governance structures that are fit for purpose and best in class, to ensure an athlete centred approach in respect of all that we do and ultimately, that the OCI plays its part in enhancing the future development of sport in Ireland and represents the country well on the world stage.

"Some of the required changes will take some time as there are steps that have to be taken in order to facilitate the governance changes. I do, however, hope to call a meeting of the new Executive Committee in the next few days and with their input, agree a timetable for change.

"It is not appropriate for me to comment any further until the Executive Committee has met.

"I would ask for your patience and understanding in that regard. I would also like to take this opportunity to wish Willie O’Brien and all the members of the outgoing Executive Committee well.”

Speaking afterwards, O’Byrne stated: “I am disappointed that I have not been voted into the role at this evening’s EGM. The OCI is an organisation that has been calling out for change for a number of years, and I am disappointed that I will not be involved in that change as we move towards Tokyo 2020.

“I would like to wish Sarah Keane all the best in the new role.”

Earlier, the meeting heard the fall out from the arrest of Pat Hickey has cost the OCI €628,000 to date.

The meeting, at Dublin’s Conrad Hotel, has also heard tributes being paid to Mr Hickey, who is facing ticket touting charges in Brazil.

Delegates from 36 sporting federations are meeting tonight to elect Mr Hickey’s successor, the first new OCI president in 28 years.

Treasurer Billy Kennedy said law firm Arthur Cox had been paid €394,000 for legal advice in the wake of the controversy over his arrest.

Consultants Grant Thornton have been paid €214,900, while a report on corporate governance from Deloitte cost €18,500.

Public relations costs stemming from the OCI’s use of The Communications Clinic amounted to €69,500.

Mr Kennedy said the public relations costs had been paid by the OCI’s insurers AIG.

Earlier honorary general secretary Dermot Henihan paid tribute to Mr Hickey, saying the OCI became much more professional under his leadership.

“When Pat started out they were working off the kitchen table and going to members houses for meetings. It was not until 1993 that the OCI in any way settled,” he said.

“We now have a beautiful headquarters and a staff of four and a number of really good people who work hard for the Olympic movement in Ireland.

“As far as I am concerned he is a great part of the OCI and it will always be part of him.”

Henihan went on to thank Mr Hickey for his “time, commitment and energy”, saying he was held with respect around the Olympic world

Mr Henihan said he had been advised by lawyers he could not say much about Mr Hickey's arrest, but that he believed he was innocent.

"I have no doubt Pat Hickey will succeed to clear his name and have the charges made against him dismissed," says Henihan.

He asked delegates to remember Pat Hickey's legacy. "He will be sadly missed," he said.

The speech received a round of applause.

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