The Government has begun an inquiry into a €25,000 grant given to the Football Association of Ireland for a coaching conference just over a decade ago.
Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development Ciarán Cannon said officials are reviewing the spending of the public money to find out if there had been “full compliance with reporting requirements”.
The “re-examination” is separate to a number of other audits announced by both the FAI and Sport Ireland. The FAI said it is helping the Government with its enquiries.
A three-day all-island gathering, billed as the "Watering the Grassroots Coaching Conference", organised by the FAI and the Irish Football Association, took place at a hotel in Dundalk in January 2008.
Delegates included Irish goalkeeping legend Packie Bonner, then technical director at the FAI, and Ricardo Moniz, coach with Tottenham Hotspur at the time, as well as staff from Chelsea and Everton.
The FAI applied for and was given a grant of €25,000 for the conference from the Department of Foreign Affairs, under its Reconciliation Fund. The fund, set up in 1982 and increased significantly after the Belfast Agreement, awards grants to organisations working to build better cross-border and cross-community relations.
The FAI had not made an application to the fund before its 2008 grant or since then.
Cathal Dervan, director of communications for the FAI, said: "We are in communications with the Department [of Foreign Affairs] and will be assisting with their enquiries."
Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy asked Mr Cannon if he was satisfied the grant to the FAI was used for its "intended outcome" and "contributed fully to the conference".
Mr Cannon confirmed a re-examination is under way. “Officials of my department are undertaking a review of records relating to that grant and will follow up with the organisation as necessary to ensure that there is full compliance with reporting requirements,” he said.
Mr Cannon said all applications to the fund are “rigorously appraised” and, where grants are issued, there is regular monitoring to ensure the intended objectives are being achieved.
“Organisations awarded grants from the Reconciliation Fund are required to meet strict reporting requirements to ensure that expenditure and progress in delivery of programmes can be appropriately monitored by the department,” he said.
“The terms of agreement under which grants are awarded also provide for auditing spot-checks on grant recipients to be undertaken by the Department each year.”
Mr Cannon said the FAI was selected for audit review under a separate Emigrant Support Programme fund in 2017 and there is “no intention at present” to conduct an additional review of funding granted under that scheme.
A few weeks ago, Sport Ireland appointed an independent auditor to assess the spending of grants it gave to the FAI, and to examine the organisation’s wider financial administration, “including an assessment of the FAI’s fitness to handle public funds.”
Sport Ireland has suspended all future funding to the FAI, pending a number of reports into its affairs being completed and recommendations adopted.
The FAI has been the centre of controversy since it was that reported former chief executive John Delaney loaned the association €100,000 to cover what was described as a cash shortfall at the organisation in 2017.
After details of the loan emerged, Mr Delaney ended his 14-year spell as chief executive in March and moved to a new role in FAI as executive vice-president charged with dealing with Uefa and Fifa. He later stepped aside from that position.