Wednesday 21 August 2019

'The public would have liked answers' - Leo Varadkar not satisfied by John Delaney's Oireachtas appearance

Republic of Ireland Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (right) and FAI Chief Executive John Delaney during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying play-off second leg match against Denmark in 2017
Republic of Ireland Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (right) and FAI Chief Executive John Delaney during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying play-off second leg match against Denmark in 2017
Leo Varadkar and John Delaney
John Delaney has come under fire (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ralph Riegel

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar dramatically intervened in the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) row and warned that no-one would have been satisfied by John Delaney's performance before an Oireachtas committee this week.

Mr Delaney, the former chief executive of the FAI, declined to answer any questions before the Oireachtas Sport Committee on the specific circumstances of his providing a €100,000 loan to the association two years ago.

Mr Varadkar stressed that while Mr Delaney was fully within his rights to adopt that position before the Oireacthas committee, it was unsatisfactory for politicians, sports fans and taxpayers alike.

"I don't think anyone would be satisfied by it," he said.

"The public, taxpayers, football fans would have like those questions to be answered.

"The truth is that he was within his legal rights not to answer those questions.

"He is not a public servant and therefore is not accountable to the Oireachtas.

"However, the FAI is accountable to the Office of the Director for Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) and is accountable to Sport Ireland for the public money they get.

"I know those bodies will have questions to ask of the FAI which need to be answered thus allowing us to do what we want to do which is restore funding to the FAI so the money can flow to local clubs, young people and into sport."

Mr Varadkar said his priority was to ensure that Sport Ireland could restore State support funding to the FAI - but this can only be done when the Government and Oireachtas is satisfied over how previous State funding has been used.

Several major investigations are now underway into the FAI finances in light of the revelations over the past month.

"The most important thing from the Government's point of view is to make sure that the millions of Euros of taxpayers money we give to the FAI has been used for the purpose intended," Mr Varadkar said.

"That is for facilities around the country, investment in youth, investment in women's sport. We need to carry out an investigation now to make sure that money was being properly used.

"I am actually very keen to restore funding to the FAI because we want that money to flow to local clubs, to youth and to women in sport. We just need to make sure that it is spent appropriately.

"In terms of John Delaney, the FAI is not a public body - it is a private organisation or company. So I suppose he is within his legal rights not to account to the Oireachtas. He is not a public servant."

"But they (the ODCE and Sport Ireland) have questions to ask and John Delaney and the (FAI) board will have to answer them."

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