Tuesday 28 January 2020

Martin Breheny: If Croke Park trusted Kildare to get their own affairs in order, they wouldn't have imposed an outsider to monitor finances

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

REMEMBER the famous occasion when former Fianna Fail ministers Noel Dempsey and Dermot Ahern shook their heads in unison, as if training for synchronised swimming, before solemnly informing TV viewers that Europe's bailiffs weren't on their way to Ireland?

"No story here -- move on," implied the pair to an incredulous populace who had already heard contrasting -- and ultimately more accurate -- reports that the men with the dark glasses were ready to book into a swish Dublin hotel and wait for the Government to turn up with the deeds of our economic sovereignty in return for a loan to pay off a debt incurred by others.

Seventeen months on, the Kildare County Board has taken something of a Dempsey-Ahern approach to their imminent €300,000 bail-out from Croke Park.

Granted, they aren't showing quite the same degree of denial, having acknowledged that a deal is in place. However, they claim it's not especially significant which, of course, it most assuredly is.

Kildare are describing it as an advance payment. They classify it as money which would be coming to them anyway in the course of normal subventions from Croke Park and Leinster. However, it's being paid much earlier because of Kildare's urgent needs.

Now if everything were so simple, what has former Munster Council secretary Simon Moroney got to do with what Kildare imply is a relatively small timing adjustment for payments?

The truth is that he has been appointed as Croke Park's man on the Curragh, keeping a beady eye on Lilywhite loot.

Kildare say he's an 'overseer' as opposed to an 'administrator' and that he will be available to give advice if required. He is being portrayed as a friendly figure on whom Kildare can call to repair the calculator if it overheats and they can't complete their homework.

Like hell, he is. Now, Simon may be the kindest soul, who would stay up all night to assist struggling students with their sums, but whatever Kildare may say or think, that's not his function with them.

No. Simon is to Kildare what Troika officials are to the Irish Government -- a watchdog whose job is to bark if instructions from on high aren't being implemented. In Kildare's case, 'on high' is Croke Park, where there is serious concern over the possibility of contagion arising from the Kildare experience. Kildare today, where tomorrow?

If Croke Park trusted Kildare to get their own affairs in order, they wouldn't have imposed an outsider to monitor their finances. And, as this country knows, outsiders aren't always as understanding as the natives.

Ironically, the Kildare bail-out comes at a time when their senior football squad are on a 10-day training camp in Portugal.

The cost of the venture has, apparently, been raised by the squad itself through various fund-raising ventures.

Presumably, the vast majority of the money emanated from Kildare people or connections, since people don't tend to contribute to anything that might improve a rival county.

So here's a key question: did the squad's fund-raising make it harder for the county board to build their finances, since the same sources can't be tapped all the time? Also, didn't team costs over previous years contribute enormously to Kildare's slide into financial trouble?

And while the squad may have raised the money for this training camp, other team expenses are the county board's responsibility.

In effect, Kildare appear to have two financial systems, one run by the county board, the other for -- or by -- the senior footballers.

And if the latter is impinging on the former -- as it surely must be in terms of fund-raising, which is a finite source everywhere -- it's unfair on other counties that Kildare get bailed out when their finances spin out of kilter.

Presumably, Croke Park had no choice but to intervene when such a major constituent body as Kildare ran into trouble, but as players from other counties feel the April chill at training tonight, they will envy their Kildare counterparts, who are away in sunnier climes despite their county board's serious financial problems.

Truly, it's a paradox which even the Troika would find difficult to fathom.

Irish Independent

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