Monday 19 November 2018

O'Donoghue asked for two tickets to Paris rugby final

JOHN O'DONOGHUE asked the Irish Sports Council for two tickets to the Rugby World Cup final, it was revealed last night.

Mr O'Donoghue was Ceann Comhairle at the time, and had ceased being minister for arts, sports and tourism for five months. He offered to pay for the tickets but the council gave them to him for free in recognition of his efforts on behalf of Irish sport.

The cost of the pair of tickets, for Mr O'Donoghue -- and it is thought his wife, Kate Ann -- came to nearly €1,000. The tickets were ultimately paid for by the taxpayer.

Late last night the Irish Sports Council admitted to the Irish Independent: "John O'Donoghue contacted the chairman of the Irish Sports Council, Ossie Kilkenny, to ask if two tickets for the 2007 Rugby World Cup final could be reserved on his behalf."

The glittering showpiece, between ultimate winners South Africa and England, was held in Paris on October 20 that year.

The Irish Sports Council -- which received more than €51m in government funding last year -- secured and paid for the tickets. It said last night: "Mr O'Donoghue offered to pay for the tickets but the Council declined his offer."

A spokesman for the Council offered the explanation: "It was decided to offer him the tickets on a complimentary basis in recognition of his efforts on behalf of Irish sport."

Mr O'Donoghue's travel and accommodation needs are also understood to have been looked after. He was accompanied to the match by Sports Council chairman Ossie Kilkenny and a guest of the latter, thought to be his wife.

Mr Kilkenny, who was appointed chairman of the ISC by Mr O'Donoghue in September 2005, refused to comment on the matter last night.

The spokesman for the body, intended to foster participation in sport in Ireland, added last night: "Following recent media reports the matter was discussed at today's meeting of the board of the Irish Sports Council.

"The background to the events was set out and there was no issue arising for the board of the Council."

The total cost of the four tickets was €1,700, but the four attendees were not clarified, despite repeated requests.

The issue -- highlighted in the Irish Independent last weekend -- has been raised with the Sports Council by the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism, now run by Martin Cullen.

The department has said it is "raising this matter" with the Council.

Yesterday's board meeting is understood to have gone on for a number of hours following a visit to the Abbotstown complex.

Details

A majority of the 10-person board were newly installed in the last month. It is understood the council could be invited to appear before the Dail Public Accounts Committee after the Irish Independent revealed details of free sports tickets to major events for its members.

Representatives from the Federation of Irish Sports are due to appear before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, and Tourism today to discuss the future funding of sport and why funding matters in the current economic downturn.

The seven newcomers are former rugby international Jim Glennon, solicitor Susan Ahern who works with the International Rugby Board, John Byrne (FAI, Galway), athletics star Eamonn Coghlan, UK-based equestrian competitor Ginny Elliott, Frances Kavanagh, the chairperson of the Federation of Irish Sport, and Sheila O'Flanagan, exponent of badminton and best-selling author.

Continuing members of the board, all of whom, like the chairman, are appointed by the minister, include Colm Brennan, Brian Mullins and Michael Spain.

Irish Independent

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