Tuesday 12 December 2017

Olympic chief denies rift with Katie’s dad over homecoming

President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, Pat Hickey
Katie Taylor, front row, second from right, and other athletes leave the stage after making a presentation to volunteers during the Games closing ceremony

Paul Melia, Colm Kelpie, Vincent Hogan and Shane Hickey

THE PRESIDENT of the Olympic Council of Ireland, Pat Hickey today denied there was a rift with the father of gold medal winner Katie Taylor over the athletes’ homecoming .

Katie’s father Peter father spoke last night of his anger over claims he was behind a decision to pull the plug on a proposed homecoming celebration for our Olympic heroes.

Peter Taylor said neither he nor his gold-medal winning daughter Katie were part of the decision-making process on plans for a public reception for Team Ireland in Dublin today.

Mr Hickey said there had been a breakdown in communications, but rejected any suggestion that the organisation of the return had been a shambles or that there was a rift with Peter Taylor.

He said that he had collaborated with Mr Taylor many times and their relationship was good. He had spoken to Mr Taylor and understood his anger.

Dublin city council said on Friday it was abandoning plans for the event after the athletes said they preferred to go home to their families.

But Mr Taylor stressed he had nothing to do with the decision, amid reports he had objected to the celebrations.

He was speaking as the Olympic Council of Ireland and the city council announced plans for a reception at the Mansion House on Wednesday.

Mr Taylor said the controversy had marred the Olympic celebrations for the family and Katie. "The sad thing for me about it is that Katie is after winning . . . we won the gold medal and all the talk is going to be about this," Mr Taylor said.

"It's a sad affair. It was a great sporting event and for myself and my daughter this has just taken the good out of it now. The nation was on a high and this has taken the good out of it."

Mr Taylor said that while the athletes were polled on whether they wanted a homecoming celebration, he and Katie were not there as they were at dinner.

They knew nothing about the proposed celebrations by the city council, he said.

"The athletes were polled and that, apparently, was their preference," said Mr Taylor.

"But Katie and I weren't even in the village when the poll was taken. So I just want to clarify that we had nothing to do with the decision."

Mr Taylor said he had been quoted out of context when he said that any event planning for a public celebration must go through him -- he said that the family had always planned a big homecoming in Bray, and they wanted to ensure that any proposed city centre event did not clash with it.

Irish head coach Billy Walsh confirmed what Mr Taylor had said.

"He wasn't even in the room when the decision was made," he said last night.

"For some reason somebody is bandying his name around and he is absolutely livid. It's ruining his Olympic Games for him. Pete had no hand, act nor part to play in it."

Junior Minister for Sport, Michael Ring said the athletes should have been consulted about a homecoming first and their wishes should be respected.

Former boxer Bernard Dunne, who has been commentating on the Olympics on RTE, said the whole thing was a ‘shambles’.

Dublin City Council said it had been planning to host a civic reception for Team Ireland in the Mansion House and then a public, staged event in the centre of the city.

Last night a spokesman said "detailed advance plans" were in place for a homecoming event, but the council was told on Friday that the athletes were eager to get home, a decision the council "understood and respected".

But he added that discussions were held yesterday and the council was ready to host a homecoming if requested.

Gardai and transport companies helped devise the plans, which were drawn up over the past week. It is understood they can be implemented at short notice.

Meanwhile, fans hoping to catch a glimpse of their heroes as they arrive into Dublin Airport this afternoon will also be disappointed, as officials have told the public to stay away.


Both gardai and the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) said there will be no public event at the airport and that the athletes will not be coming through the public arrivals hall in Terminals 1 or 2.

However, it could not say how it would prevent members of the public from going to the airport in an attempt to meet their sporting heroes.

The gardai said it was "not a public event" and they advise people not to travel to the airport.

The majority of our Team Ireland will arrive home this afternoon, although a number came home last week.

Bronze medal winner Cian O'Connor returned mid-week in order to prepare for the Dublin Horse Show, but he will attend the planned press conference at the airport this afternoon.

Team Ireland Chef de Mission Sonia O'Sullivan confirmed the athletes did not want a civic reception today, but the situation was under review late last night.

"If the performers don't want to go on the stage, then there's no point in doing it," Ms O'Sullivan said.

Dublin City Council also refuted suggestions that it had asked the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) to part fund the homecoming, stating they asked the OCI to request a contribution from its private sponsors.

"The indication was that it was a non-runner. But the arrangement to hold a homecoming still went ahead," a spokesman said.

"The fact that there was no sponsor element from the OCI was not an issue."

It is understood the Government intends hosting an event for the athletes at Farmleigh in the near future.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he wanted to respect the decision the athletes made.

A separate reception -- which has yet to be organised -- will be hosted by President Michael D Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain in September.

Irish Independent

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