Wednesday 29 January 2020

Put Ross 'back in his box', legal adviser told Olympic Council

Shane Ross watches the boxing from the stands at the Olympics in Rio. Photo: Stephen McCarthy
Shane Ross watches the boxing from the stands at the Olympics in Rio. Photo: Stephen McCarthy

Shane Phelan and Kevin Doyle

A senior barrister advised the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) that Sports Minister Shane Ross needed "to be put back in his box".

Details of the advice, given by Siobhán Phelan SC to OCI solicitor Barry MacCarthy, emerged in an email released by police in Rio de Janeiro following the arrest of the OCI president Pat Hickey.

Mr Hickey was sent the advice by Mr MacCarthy in advance of a meeting with Mr Ross on Monday.

The minister had expressed concern about the transparency of an OCI inquiry into the Rio ticketing controversy and was seeking to have an independent person appointed to it.

But that suggestion was resisted by Mr Hickey, the OCI's president and a member of the International Olympic Committee executive board, leaving Mr Ross "absolutely stunned".

The email, from Mr MacCarthy to Mr Hickey, said he had spoken to Ms Phelan, who he described as "an expert in this area". It stated: "In general, Shane Ross needs 'to be put back in his box'."

It contained many points that were subsequently made by Mr Hickey in media interviews.

Referring to the arrest of Kevin Mallon on ticket-touting charges, the email continued: "You should say that at the moment an Irishman has been charged by Brazilian authorities and is fundamentally entitled to due process and the presumption of innocence.

"You should highlight how inappropriate it is for politicians to be working to a political agenda (for example, by saying in the media that these tickets were 'on the black market') when a judicial process is currently under way.

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"The OCI is an autonomous organisation and is currently conducting its own investigation into matters and will do so free from any outside interference."

The email pointed out that the OCI was not investigating itself, but the chain of events from its appointment of Pro10 as its authorised ticket reseller for the Rio Olympics to the arrest of Mr Mallon.

"For this reason, it is inappropriate and unnecessary for any external people to be appointed to its investigation," it said.

"While the OCI will be happy to make public the findings of its own investigation, it must be extremely careful not to release any information into the public domain which could possibly taint the judicial process currently under way in Brazil."


The email stated that if any Oireachtas committee wished to investigate the matter, then that committee needed to correspond with the OCI's solicitors, setting out the legal basis for any such investigation and its terms of reference.

Neither Mr MacCarthy nor Ms Phelan responded to requests for comment.

Mr Ross learned of the arrest from Ireland's Ambassador to Brazil, Brian Glynn, and was last night arranging to fly home to Dublin "as quickly as possible". He said the Government was still "absolutely determined" to set up an inquiry but that the style of probe previously envisaged "is probably no longer relevant".

He added: "I don't know what the best form of inquiry is now. Events are moving too fast. We'll decide that over the next few days."

Mr Ross plans to meet with his Minister of State Patrick O'Donovan and the Attorney General to consider the options open to the Government.

However, Labour leader Brendan Howlin said it was time for Mr Ross to "get out of the limelight".

He added: "It has become abundantly clear that Shane Ross's only interest in this matter is in trying to keep his own hands clean. It's equally clear that he has little understanding of the job he was appointed to do."

Irish Independent

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