Sunday 25 August 2019

'FAI make us a laughing stock' - voters bombard ministers

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Tony Gavin
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Tony Gavin
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Voters pleaded with ministers to intervene in the saga surrounding former FAI chief executive John Delaney's €100,000 loan to his employer, new documents reveal.

Ministers were bombarded with letters and emails asking them to protect "brand Ireland" by addressing the corporate governance issues at the embattled football association.

In the days after news broke that Mr Delaney had loaned his employer €100,000 to address a cash-flow problem at the FAI, Sports Minister Shane Ross received a flurry of letters and emails about the scandal.

"The FAI make us a laughing stock," one concerned member of the public told him.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and Communications Minister Richard Bruton were also contacted by concerned members of the public, new documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show.

Just one letter writer, who sent hand-written notes to Mr Ross and Mr Flanagan, expressed support for Mr Delaney, according to correspondence obtained by the Sunday Independent.

This comes just days after the State's corporate watchdog initiated High Court proceedings against the FAI.

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement has asked the High Court to determine if documents given to it by the association contained privileged information. Mr Delaney has voluntarily stepped aside as executive vice-president while an independent investigation of the FAI's affairs is carried out.

Two board members, honorary secretary Michael Cody and honorary treasurer Eddie Murray, have resigned from their roles and the FAI board has indicated it will step down before its July AGM.

New correspondence shows members of the public wrote to ministers expressing concern and outrage about corporate governance at the FAI.

The first email to Mr Ross landed on March 18, the day after news of Mr Delaney's 2017 loan to the FAI became public.

It urged the Sports Minister to ask Mr Delaney to explain the cheque "and not have us all wait until April" when the FAI was due to appear at an Oireachtas Committee meeting.

As the saga rumbled on, and as Mr Delaney moved from the role of chief executive to the newly created post of executive vice-president, the volume of communications to Mr Ross's office soared.

Many of the emails asked for public funding to the FAI, via Sport Ireland, to be cut. Others, asked the minister to seek the removal of the FAI board.

One person contacted Mr Ross by email on March 26 and accused the board members of attempting to cover up the controversies surrounding the association.

Another writer said: "I will not pay one cent more to any aspect of FAI revenue in the future."

Some of the letters also called on the Government to take a hard line and act on the issue. The scandal was compared to the Olympic Council of Ireland's Rio ticket affair in one email.

One letter-writer who penned notes for both Mr Flanagan and Mr Ross did support Mr Delaney.

The letter claimed the fact Mr Delaney was from Waterford, and not Dublin, led to criticism of him. "Perhaps if he was a 'Dub' there would be a different attitude towards him," the writer told Mr Ross.

"In all the time he has been held up to ridicule one has never read a factual or objective presentation of his shortcoming.

"It's innuendo all the way," the writer claimed.

Another writer wanted to "register my disgust at this whole situation" saying that they wanted to "do my duty as a citizen".

Sunday Independent

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