Sport Ireland is concerned it was not told the FAI's Rea Walshe provided personal legal services to former chief executive John Delaney before she took part in a governance review of the association.
The State-backed authority will now be seeking a meeting with the association to address the matter.
Walshe was part of a five-person review committee formed with Sport Ireland last year. It was tasked with recommending changes to reform corporate governance and the running of the association. She was appointed to the committee just months after being paid €2,500 by Delaney for assisting him with personal defamation cases. This is in breach of Law Society of Ireland rules and contrary to proper corporate governance practice.
Sport Ireland chairman Kieran Mulvey said it should have been notified of a potential conflict of interest when Walshe took part in the review committee. "If there was any potential impediment, or any potential issue that might arise that would create a certain degree of questioning, you would expect to be informed of it," he said.
"As chairman of Sport Ireland I was unaware of this. Nothing has emerged in any documentation I have read that there was this transactional relationship and that any legal advice had been supplied to any officer of the FAI in regard to personal matters.
"Given what has been going on and what has emerged, at some stage we should have been informed of this."
Walshe had also provided legal advice to the FAI's then honorary secretary, Michael Cody, on a property matter in 2018 but did not receive a fee.
She is a qualified solicitor, registered with the Law Society, but according to its regulatory guide, in-house solicitors must set up a solicitor firm and provide professional indemnity insurance if they wish to provide legal services to a party other than their employer. The Sunday Independent understands Walshe did not have such insurance.
The Law Society said it does not comment on individual solicitors or cases where its guide has been breached. However, there could be adverse reputational issues for a solicitor to consider in cases where they did not follow its guidelines. In cases where failure to adhere to guidelines amounts to a serious breach of underlying legislation or regulations, the Law Society could decide to file a formal complaint with the Legal Services Regulatory Authority.
Mulvey said he was satisfied the review group's 78 recommendations to improve governance at the FAI had not been drawn in to question by Walshe's role in it. But he said the committee's chair, Aidan Horan, a director of the Institute for Public Administration and specialist in corporate governance, should have been notified of the personal legal work she carried out. "I am sure we will be in contact with them with regard to clarifying the situation," he added.
The FAI declined to comment when asked about Walshe's legal representations.
Yesterday the association confirmed FAI council members have been told it was seeking further financial assistance to ensure the FAI remains viable after the pandemic. Earlier this year it was guaranteed more than €30m in government support as part of a rescue package bailing out the association.