Tuesday 20 August 2019

FAI claim privilege over 10 documents provided to ODCE, High Court hears

Rea Walshe pictured with John Delaney
Rea Walshe pictured with John Delaney

Tim Healy

FAI interim CEO Rea Walshe provided legal advice that certain information in ten documents provided to the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) cannot be disclosed to third parties, the High Court heard.

Ms Walshe is a qualified solicitor and is described by the FAI in court documents as its "internal legal advisor" who has provided legal advice that the documents are privileged, meaning they are  immune from disclosure to a third party .

Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds, on Thursday, adjourned a decision on whether they are privileged.

The material is contained in the minutes of several meetings of the FAI board held between February 2016 and March 2019.

The items include legal advice it received from Ms Walshe in February 2016 over an agreement with a prospective sponsor.

It also includes advice in November that year of the FAI's potential liability over possible and ongoing legal actions against it.

It also includes legal advice it received regarding an internal investigation and the rights of affected parties to bring appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in June 2017. 

Other matters it seeks to claim privilege over are legal advice from Ms Walshe regarding disciplinary matters in December 2017.

It says legal advice concerning an application from one of its members concerning an application for a licence in January 2018 is also privileged.  

Privilege is claimed over legal advice it received in February 2018 over a strategy to meet a potential injunction by a third party, and over legal advice concerning a complaint regarding a member organisation in April 2018.

The FAI further claims privilege over material put before board meetings in February and March 2019 from Ms Walshe concerning its litigation strategy in a matter before CAS, and over an entitlement of a third party to evidence relating to a matter under investigation by the association.

Ms Justice Reynolds was on Thursday provided with the documents.  

An issue in the case which the Judge has sought clarification over is whether Ms Walshe can be considered as the association's internal legal advisor.

This is because of the number of different titles Ms Walshe has held with the association, including company secretary since she was appointed as the FAI's head of Legal and Licensing in 2014.

The FAI says despite holding the different roles and the nomenclature involved, Ms Walshe has worked principally as a legal advisor and provided legal advice to it on a range of issues.

The ODCE says there is insufficient evidence that Ms Walshe was qualified to give legal advice to the association at the relevant meetings given that she had different titles with the FAI.

The judge adjourned the matter to Tuesday to allow the sides to make further submissions on the application.

The ODCE application, made under the 2014 Companies Act against the FAI, comes as part of its probe into "certain matters"  concerning the association.

On April 19 last, the ODCE issued a notification requiring FAI to hand over copies of books and documents.

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