Monday 27 May 2019

Ex-CEO lobbied ministers directly for projects which are now facing threat to funding

Letters: Sports Minister Shane Ross was approached over plans for Finn Harps’ stadium. Picture: INPHO
Letters: Sports Minister Shane Ross was approached over plans for Finn Harps’ stadium. Picture: INPHO

Kevin Doyle and Cormac McQuinn

Former FAI chief John Delaney wrote to the finance and sports ministers stressing the importance of funding for projects which are now under threat due to the controversy surrounding the association.

Letters obtained by the Irish Independent show Mr Delaney directly lobbied Paschal Donohoe in relation to the Munster Centre of Excellence.

Separately, he told Sports Minister Shane Ross the construction of a "modern-day stadium" for the Finn Harps club in Co Donegal was an "absolute priority".

Both developments are now among a significant number of projects reliant on State funds the ministers may withhold.

Mr Ross has confirmed money can be allocated to the ventures, but they will meet problems at drawn stage if the FAI has not implemented a string of governance reforms.

It follows controversy over a €100,000 loan given by Mr Delaney to help the FAI through a cashflow problem and questions about the use of FAI money.

Plans for a centre of excellence in Glanmire, Co Cork, were launched in December 2016 and include seven pitches and high-level facilities on a 30-acre site.

In September 2017, Mr Delaney sent "a short note to update" the Finance Minister on the project. He said it was essential for football development in Cork and Munster.

"We have been delighted with the cross-party support of the project, and in particular Simon Coveney, since the project's inception," it said.

"It should also be noted that Alan Kelly, Minister for the Environment at the time, was also extremely supportive."

The letter goes on to say Government funds of €2m per year over three years would help pay for the development.

"I would appreciate a meeting for discussion," Mr Delaney concludes.

In his letter to Mr Ross regarding Finn Harps in July last year, the ex-CEO says he wants to "briefly discuss" the project. He says Finn Harps had plans for a "modern-day stadium" in Donegal in 2007.

"Their plans started but stalled due to the downward spiral of the economy, leaving a partially built viewing stand on the Ballybofey site," he said.

The FAI and Finn Harps agreed a revised plan, deciding it "should form part of their strategic plan but with a more realistic approach to complete the stadium".

He said the FAI viewed the development "as an absolute priority and believes a facility of this calibre would help progress football in the Donegal area and benefit the north-west region in general".

Irish Independent

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