Monday 20 November 2017

FAI boss Delaney under pressure to clarify his alleged canvassing for Labour's Kelly

FAI chief John Delaney Photo: Sportsfile
FAI chief John Delaney Photo: Sportsfile
Environment Minister Alan Kelly Photo: Tom Burke

Wayne O'Connor and Kevin Doyle

FAI chief executive John Delaney's is under pressure to clarify his alleged canvassing for Labour Party deputy leader Alan Kelly.

Transport and Sport Minister Paschal Donohoe says it would be inappropriate for an organisation in receipt of taxpayers funding to be backing any candidate.

Mr Donohoe said he would not expect Mr Delaney to use his role with the FAI to endorse an election candidate, but said he had no problem with the football association boss endorsing a candidate while acting in a personal capacity.

The FAI refused to comment when contacted by the Irish Independent.

Tánaiste Joan Burton said she had no issue with the FAI boss canvassing for her deputy leader. Nor had she any problem with Mr Delaney's appearance on hustings in Tipperary alongside the Environment Minister.

"If you're saying that John Delaney was advising people to vote for Alan Kelly, I support that, actually," she said.

Mr Delaney is from the same county as Mr Kelly and the pair are said to be friends.

The FAI boss visited a number of football clubs and a barber shop in Mr Kelly's constituency last Friday, where the pair posed together for a picture.

According to reports, Mr Delaney encouraged people to vote for the minister, who is facing a tough battle in the five-seater constituency.

"Politics is full, and always has been, of people from various sporting codes and bodies who have particular political allegiances or who express a particular political viewpoint of how someone is doing without being party political at all," Ms Burton said.

Asked if it was appropriate for the chief executive of a body such as the FAI to be backing individual candidates, Ms Burton said: "I would say that's really a matter for John Delaney.

"If you look at the Dáil, there are very many famous members of the Dáil who won their spurs on either the rugby field or the GAA field.

"There are a lot of them there at the moment. I think politics and sport, there's a lot of interaction there and this is probably one of those cases."

Mr Donohoe said he wanted to know what happened when the two were in Tipperary but was confident Mr Delaney was not operating in his FAI role.

"What I would like to do is establish what happened here in relation to it. But from dealing with John Delaney and the FAI, I do not believe that they would use their offices to endorse any candidate.

"I would be certain that John or anybody else who is involved in a public body would not be out using their office to advance any candidate," Mr Donohoe told Newstalk.

"What anybody does in their private time is their own business," he added.

Mr Delaney is paid €360,000 a year by the FAI, which is partially funded by the Sports Council of Ireland.

Labour strategists believe that Mr Kelly is one of the Labour candidates who will be re-elected even if the party's support in the General Election drops below 10pc.

However, the Environment Minister will have a battle on his hands to keep his seat as he is running against Independent TDs Mattie McGrath, Michael Lowry and Séamus Healy as well as Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.

Mr Kelly and Mr Delaney have been working together on a number of sporting projects in their native Tipperary in recent months. The FAI boss attended Mr Kelly's 40th birthday party last July.

Mr Donohoe said he had no problem with Mr Delaney endorsing a candidate while acting in a personal capacity.

"I would expect anybody who is leading up an organisation that is funded by taxpayers' money would not be out advocating for any political party... I would be confident that John or anybody else would not do that."

Irish Independent

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