Noel Rock to explain ticket texts with John Delaney at committee

Fine Gael TD says he paid for tickets, ‘but I would accept if I was working in hindsight, I wouldn’t have done things this way’

John Delaney arrives with other FAI officials to attend the  Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport at Leinster House. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

John Delaney arrives with other FAI officials to attend the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport at Leinster House. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock has promised to explain to colleagues on the Oireachtas sports committee a series of texts he exchanged with then FAI chief executive John Delaney about match tickets last year.

Representatives from the FAI are addressing the joint Oireachtas committee on tourism and sport.

It has emerged that Mr Rock had been in contact with Mr Delaney when he was still chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland seeking help to get tickets for a series of matches in 2017 against Wales, Iceland and Denmark.

In a statement, Mr Rock denied getting corporate or complimentary tickets and said he has “previously paid for tickets directly from the FAI - much like how many public representatives do with regard to tickets from the GAA, FAI and IRFU. These were neither corporate nor complimentary tickets on any occasion”.

It was also reported Mr Rock told the former FAI chief executive that he was “happy to push back against” a proposal from Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy for Mr Delaney to appear before the Oireachtas Transport, Tourism and Sport Committee.

However, Mr Rock said he has no memory of the text message regarding Ms Murphy. He said that he could find no record of the text messages.

“I have never taken corporate nor complimentary tickets from the FAI nor have I sought them. I do not believe that this has in any way clouded my view. I believe my record on this matter speaks for itself,” he said. “I will address it again at committee later,” he said on Wednesday morning.

Mr Rock told The Irish Times he disclosed the exchanges regarding tickets to the committee chair Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd and the clerk of the committee on Tuesday after a private session on corporate governance. During that session, the disclosure of interests by members was also discussed, prompting Mr Rock to email details about the exchange

Asked whether it was appropriate for him to have contact with Mr Delaney about tickets, Mr Rock said: “Any tickets bought were before my time on the committee, but I would accept if I was working in hindsight, I wouldn’t have done things this way.”

He added: “This has clearly in no way compromised how I have approached this matter and I have been to the front of asking the hard questions, as I will again today.”

The matter was raised in the Dáil by Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny who said “serious issues” had been raised and widely reported about Mr Rock “who supposedly sent a text message to John Delaney saying he was happy to push back against a proposal by Deputy Catherine Murphy for the then CEO of the FAI to appear before the Oireachtas committee on sport”.

Mr Kenny added: “Deputy Rock had texted Mr Delaney in the past regarding match tickets in both March and October in 2017 and he has acknowledged this.”

Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghaíl said it was “not really relevant because it is the subject matter” of the committee.

But the Sligo-Leitrim TD insisted it was relevant “because the programme for government has a clear commitment in regard to political reform”.

He asked Tánaiste Simon Coveney: “Do you think it is appropriate that a TD would be behaving in this manner and be pushing back against another member of this Dáil to prevent somebody coming before the Oireachtas?”

Mr Coveney said: “Deputy, I’m not going to get into the detail of the activity of a Deputy in this House when they’re not here to defend themselves.

“Deputy Rock is in committee at the moment dealing with many of these issues.”

Mr Rock is the second committee member to be caught up in controversy regarding accessing tickets through Mr Delaney. Last month, it emerged that Kevin O’Keefe, the Fianna Fáil sports spokesman, paid for tickets to the World Cup final which were organised for him following a meeting with Mr Delaney while socialising.

Separately, The Irish Times understands that a list of potential questions distributed to committee members by an expert in corporate governance was taken back by the committee’s legal advisor during a private session on Tuesday.

The head of the corporate governance association of Ireland had been asked to give a presentation to the committee in advance of Wednesday’s session with the FAI. His presentation addressed broad principles, and also issues related specifically to the FAI.

As part of the second element, he distributed a printout including suggested issues to address, many of which sources said would have been outside the remit of the committee, which was taken back by the committee’s legal advisor.