Former sports minister defends praising John Delaney

Patrick O’Donovan says ex FAI boss was ‘a great man to bring out the cheque book’

Former FAI chief executive. Photo : Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

Former FAI chief executive. Photo : Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

 

Former junior sports minister Patrick O’Donovan has defended describing the former FAI chief executive John Delaney as being “always a great man to bring out the cheque book”.

Mr O’Donovan was one of two Government TDs who welcomed the former chief executive of the FAI to the opening of a new pitch in Askeaton, Co Limerick in recent weeks.

The opening of Mick Hanley Park, the renamed headquarters of the Desmond League, took place on March 30th, after revelations emerged that Mr Delaney wrote a €100,000 personal cheque to the FAI to get it over a cashflow problem in April 2017, and before his appearance at the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport.

At the reopening, Mr O’Donovan described Mr Delaney as a “great man to support the clubs. I hope you will still be able to do that, and always a great man to bring out the cheque book, so there’s a lot of clubs here tonight John now and I’m sure that you won’t let them down.”

At the Oireachtas committee last week, Mr Delaney refused to answer questions about the €100,000 cheque or about his 13 years as chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland.

When asked if he stood by those comments, Mr O’Donovan told The Irish Times on Friday he had not seen the Oireachtas committee hearing “so I’m not going to comment on what was said in that”.

He added: “My interaction with him on behalf of local soccer clubs across Co Limerick is that he always had the club’s interests at heart.

“He was always very good in his support and in trying to advance their progression. That’s the only thing I will say in terms of his local involvement in County Limerick.”

Mr O’Donovan, now a junior minister in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, was Minister of State for Tourism and Sport between May 2016 and June 2017, at the time when the FAI had the cashflow issues which saw the then chief executive lend them €100,000.

Mr O’Donovan said he was not aware in his time as sports minister that the organisation was having financial difficulties.

“Sport Ireland is the statutory agency that deals with sporting bodies on a day to day basis. The Minister’s role would be in terms of policy and government relations in terms of Sport Ireland,” he explained.

“It is the State agency which deals with the national governing bodies on a one-to-one basis. The Minister’s role is to really oversee policy and policy implementation which is carried out through Sport Ireland.”

Fine Gael TD Tom Neville also attended the event.

According to a report in The Limerick Leader on the reopening, Mr Delaney praised the Government’s investment in soccer facilities

“I have visited 2,000 clubs around the country, I know them intimately - I’ve worked very hard with them,” he said.

“When you row a boat, if you row on your own you get nowhere. If you row against people, you don’t get anywhere but when you row together you get where you want to be.”

Shortly after news of the loan emerged Mr Delaney stepped down as chief executive to take up a newly created role of executive vice-president, where the salary is expected to be in the region of €120,000 per annum.