Wednesday 16 October 2019

Spillane sent officials hand-written reports

Handwritten notes: Former Kerry ace Pat Spillane
Handwritten notes: Former Kerry ace Pat Spillane
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Former Kerry all-star footballer Pat Spillane submitted a series of handwritten reports on his work as Ambassador for Rural Ireland, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Newly released documents reveal Mr Spillane made handwritten notes of his meetings with interest groups, which were then submitted to the Department of Rural Affairs.

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Other reports on his work were compiled by civil servants transcribing conversations with Mr Spillane.

The RTE GAA pundit received €30,000 in fees for the two years he worked as Rural Ireland Ambassador and was paid an additional €14,381 for expenses.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show Mr Spillane last year presented the department with six handwritten reports of his meeting with rural communities.

In 2018, he met communities in Wexford, Donegal, Kerry and Galway.

The previous year, reports were typed up by civil servants based on conversations and notes provided by the former GAA footballer.

In 2017, he also met with a number of interest groups including the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) and Macra na Feirme.

He travelled to several counties including Kilkenny, Cork, Westmeath and Clare.

His travel and hotel expenses were covered by the Department.

Last Friday, Mr Spillane told the Sunday Independent that his contract stipulated that "all secretarial support was to be provided for by the department".

He did not want to comment further.

Under the heading 'secretarial support' in his contract, it states: "the contractor will be supported by officials from the department".

However, a Government source said there was "frustration" in the Department of Rural Affairs over the material provided by Mr Spillane.

The GAA analyst's role as Ambassador for Rural Ireland hit the headlines after he appeared on The Late Late Show criticising the Government for not renewing his contract.

On the show, hosted by Ryan Tubridy, the All-Ireland champion was highly critical of Minister for Rural Affairs Michael Ring and his advisers.

Mr Spillane claimed the decision to create a senior ministry for rural Ireland was first proposed in a report he oversaw.

"I was the man who delivered that report to the minister, and, indirectly thanks to me, Minister Ring got a ministry and I was the first fella to be shafted," Mr Spillane said.

He said the minister was getting "bad advice" from his officials and described a recent scheme to tackle rural isolation as "gobbledegook and horse s**t".

He also attacked proposals for rural road shows, which aim to inform communities on Government actions.

Mr Ring reacted furiously to the television interview and said Mr Spillane "clearly has a high regard for himself". Mr Ring also criticised RTE for not inviting him on The Late Late Show to address the comments made by the Kerry eight-time All-Ireland winner.

At the time, the minister released text messages he received from Mr Spillane, in which he praised Mr Ring for his work in rural Ireland.

The minister also published details of the fees and expenses paid to the former Rural Affairs Ambassador

Mr Ring also wrote to RTE Director General Dee Forbes about the decision to allow Mr Spillane attack him and his staff without giving him an opportunity to respond.

He also said he would like RTE to release details of Mr Spillane's contract with the station.

Sunday Independent

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