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Ross and Hickey likely to be star witnesses in Dáil probe of scandal


Irish sailor Annalise Murphy with OCI president Pat Hickey and Sports Minister Shane Ross after her silver medal win

Irish sailor Annalise Murphy with OCI president Pat Hickey and Sports Minister Shane Ross after her silver medal win

Irish sailor Annalise Murphy with OCI president Pat Hickey and Sports Minister Shane Ross after her silver medal win

The Olympics ticket scandal looks set to be probed by an Oireachtas committee with Shane Ross and Pat Hickey among the star witnesses.

Preliminary legal advice sought by Mr Ross in the wake of his fruitless meeting with the president of the Olympics Council of Ireland (OCI) on Monday is understood to have suggested that TDs and senators are best placed to investigate the controversy.

Sources have told the Irish Independent this would allow the chain of events which led to almost 800 Irish tickets for the Games ending up in the hands of alleged touts to be unravelled using Oireachtas privilege.

The OCI has already said it will not permit an independent person to be added to its inquiry team and will not co-operate with a potential Government probe, as it might prejudice the case of Dublin businessman Kevin Mallon, who is in prison in Rio de Janeiro.

Mr Mallon, who is a director of a firm at the centre of the controversy, THG, was arrested on August 5 while allegedly in possession of tickets intended for the black market.

Mr Ross said yesterday he was keeping all options open in relation to an inquiry - but sources now say the Oireachtas Committee on Sports will play a central role.

This approach was first mooted by Minister for State Patrick O'Donovan more than a week ago, as the committee would be expected to carry out a review of Ireland's performance at the Olympics anyway.

Read more: Hurler on the ditch Ross has struggled to make step up to the senior game

Read more: Shane Ross turns to Attorney General for help in finding answers to Olympic ticketing scandal

Members of the cross-party committee are expected to cut their holidays short to fast-track the process, which wasn't scheduled to begin until the end of September at the earliest.

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Chairman Brendan Griffin told the Irish Independent last night that he is in contact with TDs and senators about meeting in the coming days to seek their own legal advice and decide on a way forward.

He said the review could be split into "different chapters" in order to enable the ticket issue and questions around boxer Michael O'Reilly's failed drugs test to be answered first.

"The OCI would need to come in and that would include top people like Mr Hickey, subject to agreement from members of the committee," he said.

Asked whether Mr Ross could be requested to appear in order to give a full report on his hour-long showdown with Mr Hickey in Rio, the Kerry TD replied: "All the people relevant to this story should be invited. I think the committee members would feel it would be appropriate.

"It is important to form a view of what happened. The general feeling is that people need answers."

Mr Griffin added that the committee will ask officials whether former coach Billy Walsh's exit from the set-up is a factor in the boxing team not winning any medals.

And he said current and former Olympians were likely to be asked to give evidence as part of the overall review.

"We would want to talk to them about how they were treated and the preparations.

"Some athletes may be afraid to speak out so perhaps retired athletes (who) could offer a more objective view and be a bit more fearless could contribute," he said.

Mr Ross also met with International Olympic Committee (IOC) director general Christophe De Kepper yesterday but remained tight-lipped afterwards about their conversation.