Wednesday 18 July 2018

Hickey 'old guard' swept aside as swimming chief Sarah Keane takes OCI helm

New OCI president Sarah Keane with rival candidates, Willie O’Brien (left) and Bernard O’Byrne at the council elections at The Conrad Hotel in Dublin last night. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
New OCI president Sarah Keane with rival candidates, Willie O’Brien (left) and Bernard O’Byrne at the council elections at The Conrad Hotel in Dublin last night. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The new president of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) has pledged to "reform and rebuild" the embattled organisation.

Sarah Keane (43) made the promise after succeeding Pat Hickey (71), whose 28-year reign came to an abrupt end when he was arrested as part of a ticket touting investigation at the Rio Olympics last August.

The Swim Ireland chief executive secured 29 of the 43 votes on offer at an extraordinary general.

Her closest rival was outgoing OCI vice president Willie O'Brien (68), a Hickey loyalist, on 12 votes.

Basketball Ireland chief executive Bernard O'Byrne (67) came a distant third with just two votes.

Much of the meeting was taken up with tributes to Mr Hickey, who was not in attendance.

Patrick Hickey (Photo JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Patrick Hickey (Photo JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

But this did not translate into votes for his closest ally O'Brien, who had been at his side for 20 years.

After the votes were counted, Ms Keane said: "I just want to say thank you to everyone and that I am here to serve."

She later said that "patience and understanding" would be required while the organisation undergoes a period of change.

Her emphatic victory came after she campaigned on a platform of reforming the OCI, whose governance structures have been roundly criticised.

She pledged to ensure member federations are treated equally, regardless of size; and to make the OCI "an example of the best practice of sports administration and governance".

She also pledged to maximise supports to organisations who do not receive state funding.

The meeting saw a resounding defeat for the OCI "old guard" who have continued to support Mr Hickey (inset below) since his arrest.

Of those who went for election, only Billy Kennedy retained his position on the board. He ended up being unopposed for the position of honorary treasurer.

Apart from Mr O'Brien, the most high-profile casualty was honorary general secretary Dermot Henihan, who lost out to former FAI deputy chief executive Sarah O'Shea.

Joining them on the new executive committee are Colm Barrington (sailing); Robert Norwood (snowsports); Georgina Drumm (athletics); Ciaran Gallagher (gymnastics); Robert Johnson (hockey); Patrick John Nolan (cycling); Darren O'Neill (boxing); Denis Toomey (Paralympics); and Lochlann Walsh (triathlon).

Earlier, the meeting heard the fallout from the arrest of Mr Hickey has cost the OCI €628,000 to date.

The meeting, at Dublin's Conrad Hotel, also heard tributes being paid to Mr Hickey, who has denied charges of ticket touting.

Mr Kennedy said law firm Arthur Cox had been paid €394,000 for legal advice in the wake of the controversy over his arrest.

Consultants Grant Thornton have been paid €214,900, while a report on corporate governance from Deloitte cost €18,500.

Public relations costs stemming from the OCI's use of the Communications Clinic amounted to €69,500.

Mr Kennedy said the public relations costs had been paid by the OCI's insurers AIG.

Earlier, Mr Henihan paid tribute to Mr Hickey, saying the OCI became much more professional under his leadership.

He thanked Mr Hickey for his "time, commitment and energy", saying he was held in respect around the Olympic world and asking delegates to remember Pat Hickey's legacy.

Irish Independent

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