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Saturday 24 February 2018

Robbie entertained FAS guests to the tune of €2,255

Michael Brennan Political Correspondent

THE head of the department which signed off on the "golden-handshake" package for former FAS chief Rody Molloy was brought to a Robbie Williams concert at taxpayers' expense.

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment secretary general Sean Gorman was among a group of 28 people invited by FAS to the concert in Croke Park in 2006.

The other invited guests included Mr Molloy, GAA president Christy Cooney, an AIB banker and two senior members of the Labour Relations Commission.

Mr Gorman confirmed yesterday that he did attend the Robbie Williams concert as a guest of FAS.

A former board member of FAS, he was appointed secretary general of the Enterprise Department in 2004 and was involved in the negotiations over the severance package for Mr Molloy in November 2008.

The former director general was given a pension worth €111,000 a year, a once-off lump sum of €333,000, and another payment worth €111,000. He also retained an Audi car worth €20,800 after resigning in the wake of controversy over his spending on foreign travel.

The Public Accounts Committee heard yesterday that FAS did not have details of how many of those invited actually attended the June 2006 concert, which cost the organisation €2,255 for tickets and food.

At the concert, Robbie Williams promised to give the 78,000 fans present another "free concert" (which never materialised) after admitting that he was disappointed with his performance on the night.

The committee heard yesterday that the report ordered by Tanaiste Mary Coughlan into Mr Molloy's severance package had found there was "no legal basis" to overturn it.

Mr Gorman said this was the advice from the Attorney General, after claims were made about deliberate withholding of information from the FAS board.

Another committee member, Fianna Fail TD Darragh O'Brien, said he was "very disappointed" with the view taken on the severance package, which was approved by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and Ms Coughlan.


"It is remiss of everyone involved that we didn't seek legal advice before the package was signed off on," he said.

The committee published a letter yesterday from FAS executive Terry Corcoran, who was moved aside from his position as head of internal audit by Mr Molloy. He said his investigation into spending irregularities in FAS had been constrained by senior management who were worried about "possible damage to the image of FAS".

He wrote that almost all of the controversial spending on sporting events and concerts had been approved by Mr Molloy.

Between 2002 and 2008, Fas paid €35,000 for tickets to events such as matches and concerts, including tickets for Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, the Police, Westlife and Neil Diamond.

Fine Gael committee chairman Bernard Allen said the FAS executives who organised the hospitality were operating in a "parallel universe" while staff working on the ground had to "account for every penny".

He also highlighted that alcohol accounted for 40pc of the FAS bill for a workshop held for the International School for Peace -- and for 64pc of a bill for a lunch attended by three FAS personnel to discuss a training project.

FAS director general Paul O'Toole said no spending on concerts or sporting events was being undertaken -- and the FAS foreign travel budget had been cut from an annual average of €420,000 to €90,000 last year.

Irish Independent

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