News Politics

Thursday 26 April 2018

Olympic Council funding from State in danger as Ross blasts 'rotten culture'

Organisation under pressure to end contract with ticketing firm

OCI president Sarah Keane at Leinster House for yesterday’s meeting. Photo: Gareth Chaney
OCI president Sarah Keane at Leinster House for yesterday’s meeting. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The Olympic Council of Ireland risks losing its State funding unless it can find a way to end a 10-year contract with the company at the centre of the Rio ticketing scandal.

Transport Minister Shane Ross wants to resume funding to the body "as soon as possible" but says the OCI must disengage with THG first.

The OCI is now facing a major crisis after losing all of its sponsors in the wake of last summer's controversy.

After its former president Pat Hickey's arrest in Brazil, it was decided to cut off the OCI from taxpayers' money.

A total of €130,000 was withheld in 2016 and under normal circumstances the OCI would have expected to receive another €300,000 this year through Sport Ireland. Mr Ross told the Oireachtas Committee on Sport that decisions on funding had not yet been made because he wanted to be "absolutely sure that their house is completely in order".

It emerged earlier this week that Mr Hickey entered into an agreement with THG that gives the British company the right to be Ireland's ticket agent at every Olympics Games until 2026.

Read More: The 'rotten culture' of the OCI under Pat Hickey has been revealed - Shane Ross

"That is a problem for them. It's a big problem. I don't know many of the details about the contract that was signed.

"But we would certainly not like to fund them if there are any outstanding issues which are a legacy of this particular controversy," Mr Ross said.

He used his appearance at the special committee sitting to defend the Moran Inquiry, which he said had "shone a light" on the "shameful standards of corporate governance" at the OCI under Pat Hickey.

He said events in Brazil justified an inquiry which "revealed a hitherto unknown rotten culture at the heart of the OCI".

However, Fianna Fáil's Robert Troy said: "It's a sad reflection on ourselves and our own checks and balances that we relied upon another jurisdiction, which probably wouldn't be held in the highest esteem as being the most honourable country in terms of doing business. Yet it took that jurisdiction to highlight the gross inadequacies of the OCI."

Mr Ross insisted that non-cooperation with the inquiry by Mr Hickey and others had not undermined its work.

The new head of the OCI, Sarah Keane, and representatives of Sport Ireland were also due before the committee yesterday but the hearing had to be abruptly adjourned after a staff member became seriously ill.

Proceedings will resume this morning.

Irish Independent

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