Sport Rio 2016 Olympics

Friday 21 October 2016

Minister says OCI funding to be reviewed over scandal

Published 15/08/2016 | 02:30

Showdown talks in Rio: Sports Minister Shane Ross. Photo Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography 2016
Showdown talks in Rio: Sports Minister Shane Ross. Photo Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography 2016

A minister has threatened to review the level of State funding to the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) in a move that further heightens tensions between the Government and Irish Olympic chief Pat Hickey.

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As confusion reigns over the ongoing ticketing scandal, under-fire Sports Minister Shane Ross held showdown talks with Mr Hickey in a hotel in Rio de Janeiro in the early hours of this morning.

Mr Ross was expected to demand that an independent person - possibly an assistant Secretary General in his department - be placed on the OCI team investigating the alleged illegal sale of Irish tickets.

It comes as the man at the centre of the controversy, THG executive Kevin Mallon, was due to appear in court today to face charges of conspiracy and helping to sell tickets illegally.

The authorised ticket reseller Pro 10 Sports Management said Mr Mallon was authorised in writing to hold tickets on its behalf for collection by clients. He was holding 781 marked for the OCI.

There were further developments yesterday, including the release of a statement by the OCI, in which the body said it is not "investigating itself".

The OCI said it will make the findings of its own inquiry public once the Brazilian police investigation concludes.

"Due process must be respected in this matter. On the advice of senior legal counsel, the OCI will not risk prejudicing the ongoing judicial process in Brazil by making any further public comment," the statement said.

"The OCI will be happy to make public the findings of its own investigation at the appropriate time, but not before the Brazilian legal case has been resolved.

"For the avoidance of doubt, the OCI is not investigating itself; it is investigating the chain of events from the appointment of Pro10 to the arrest of Mr Mallon. There remains no suggestion of any wrongdoing or misconduct on the part of the OCI or any of its staff."

Minister of State at the Department of Sport Patrick O'Donovan admitted the Government cannot force the OCI to accept its request for an independent person to join the probe.

Read more: Olympic heat: I want to see the money trail, Minister Ross tells OCI president

But Mr O'Donovan told the Irish Independent the OCI's State funding could be reviewed unless it responds accordingly.

"As a department, while we don't have a direct role in the governance of individual bodies, we do have a funding role," Mr O'Donovan said, adding that there could be "implications for funding".

Speaking earlier on RTÉ's 'This Week', the Limerick TD said his department wrote to the OCI seeking a number of details.

The OCI was asked to provide clarification as to what level of communication there has been with police in Rio.

Mr O'Donovan said it is too early to say whether an independent inquiry will be required but that it is in the interests of the OCI to cooperate with an Oireachtas probe.

"I believe that any agency or any organisation that is in receipt of taxpayers' money, regardless of how small or how large, it would certainly be in their interest to cooperate at the highest level with the Houses of the Oireachtas," he said.

"Because certainly as a minister of state in the Department of Sport, it would be my intention to look very negatively on any agency that is publicly funded that doesn't cooperate with the Houses of the Oireachtas."

Irish Independent

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