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Monday 18 December 2017

Sports Council faces second court battle

JOHN GREENE Sports Editor

The Irish Sports Council (ISC) is heading to the Four Courts again, just six months after its last damaging and costly High Court appearance, which left the taxpayer with a €800,000 legal bill.

The Sunday Independent has learned that Gerry Giblin, a former director of the Athletics Association of Ireland (AAI), lodged papers in the High Court last week alleging the sports council abused its office. Separately, Mr Giblin is also seeking substantial damages for libel.

Last March, another case for defamation and misfeasance in public office brought by the AAI's ex-ceo Mary Coghlan against the sports council and her former employers was ultimately settled for a figure believed to be in the region of €800,000.

The case was settled by the two publicly funded bodies four days into the hearing, but only after damaging evidence -- in which it was claimed the ISC and its chairman Ossie Kilkenny had exerted pressure on AAI to sack Ms Coghlan -- was heard.

This latest case taken by Mr Giblin is a spin-off from the Coghlan dispute. At the height of the impassse between the ISC and AAI, then Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism Martin Cullen asked the council to brief him on the matter.

Mr Giblin will claim in court that the subsequent letter sent by Mr Kilkenny on behalf of the ISC, on May 20, 2009, contained libellous statements. A spokesperson for the ISC yesterday declined to comment.

Mr Kilkenny's five-year term as chairman of the ISC ended last Monday and it is thought unlikely that he will be reappointed. Sports minister Mary Hanafin said that she is still "considering the appointment of a chairman".

This latest High Court action -- which is a second alleging misfeasance in public office against the ISC -- is a further bodyblow to the council's credibility in the wake of the Coghlan case and a highly public spat with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Independent also understands that a document circulated early last week by Mary Coghlan has caused disquiet among ISC board members.

Members received the document in advance of last Wednesday's scheduled monthly board meeting and it is understood the meeting will reconvene this week -- with members having requested time to consider its contents further.

The document is Ms Coghlan's response to a report on her case submitted on behalf of the ISC by its chief executive John Treacy to Ms Hanafin. It is understood that Ms Coghlan's document, a copy of which has also been seen by the minister, takes issue with elements of Mr Treacy's report.

Sunday Independent

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