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Tuesday 23 January 2018

Ross accused of 'mealy-mouthed response' to our Olympics shame

Timmy Dooley: demanding inquiry Picture: Tom Burke
Timmy Dooley: demanding inquiry Picture: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Sports Minister Shane Ross has come under fire from Fianna Fáil for what a TD called his "mealy-mouthed response" to the controversies that have cast a shadow over Ireland's Olympics campaign.

Mr Ross finally broke his silence yesterday on the Olympic ticket scandal and the suspension of boxer Michael O'Reilly for alleged doping offences, which, in his own words, have "embarrassed" Team Ireland.

The minister, who has faced accusations of inaction, moved to quell public controversy as the issue was set to be brought before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

PAC member and Fine Gael TD Noel Rock called on the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) to be hauled in.

He said: "This ongoing ticket scandal is an embarrassment, not just for the OCI but for the country in general.

"While we should be enjoying the events taking place, we are discussing off-the-field antics and an Irishman arrested for selling OCI-allocated tickets on the black market."

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley accused Mr Ross of providing a "mealy-mouthed response".

Breaking his silence on the controversies, Mr Ross said the focus now should be on winning medals at the Games.

In relation to boxer Michael O'Reilly - who is travelling home after failing a drugs test - Mr Ross said the news was "disappointing".

But the Independent Alliance TD refused to say whether Mr O'Reilly should face tough sanctions as a result of the alleged doping.


He said: "We issued a statement last week that we condemned all drug-taking and that we were looking for a clean Olympics, so I think it's very disappointing what has happened and it's very disappointing for Ireland.

"But we should put that behind us now and look to the future and look to a medal being won, hopefully by the boxers, or by others, next week."

He continued: "I want to be very careful about what I say on this question (Michael O'Reilly's failed test). There is a process going on.

"What is happening, I think, is that he is coming back and going through a process carried out by Sports Ireland and others and we are going to watch that and monitor it very closely."

Asked why the boxer had been allowed to travel to Rio, despite the test having been carried out in Ireland, Mr Ross said that was an issue of concern.

"That I agree. That's something that will have to be answered for," he told reporters.

Mr Ross was also asked about the ticketing scandal that has engulfed the OCI.

Read More: Analysis: Ross needs to probe quickly to get full facts

The Dublin-Rathdown TD would not rule out an independent inquiry but stressed that the OCI and Brazilian police were conducting their own investigations.

"We haven't considered that yet. We will do it if necessary, we will carry out an investigation, if necessary; it's far too early, premature," he said.

"We'll look at it very closely and if we think it's necessary, we will carry out an investigation here of some sort, maybe not the department, so it's completely independent."

However, Mr Dooley said that Mr Ross's response was "mealy-mouthed" and he reiterated his call for a full inquiry.

"Mr Ross is sitting on his hands," he added.

Irish Independent

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