Governance at Inland Fisheries Ireland halfway between ‘Ballymagash and Killinaskully’, committee hears

State body had 16 uninsured vehicles on the road at one time and a court case is pending relating to a crash

The fact that Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) had 16 uninsured vehicles on the road only came to light after a collision in August 2021, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has heard.

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy told the committee that a financial liability accruing from the incident had not been included before the audit for the accounts for that year had been signed off.

Róisín Bradley, IFI’s head of human resources, said one of the organisation’s drivers struck the back of a car which then rear-ended another.

Ms Bradley told the committee the driver involved was “extremely distraught” about what happened and that she and IFI chief executive Francis O’Donnell reported it to the board straight away.


When asked by Fine Gael TD Alan Dillon if anybody was held accountable within the IFI for failing to ensure the leased vehicles were properly insured, Ms Bradley blamed it on a “system failure and staff being overworked” during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She declined to state how much the incident is likely to cost the IFI as there is a case pending, though no criminal charges have been brought against the driver or against the organisation as a result.

Independent TD Verona Murphy said it was a criminal offence to have an uninsured vehicle on the road.

IFI is the State body responsible for monitoring Ireland’s 74,000km of inland fisheries and along coasts up to 22km offshore. It has been in disarray in recent times with five members of its board, including that of chair Prof Frances Lucy, having resigned in the past year.

The number of resignations left the board unable to reach the quorum required to meet. Two former county managers have been appointed in the interim to oversee the organisation, with a new board to be selected in September.

There was scathing comments at the committee about governance issues in IFI, with Green Party TD Marc Ó Cathasaigh describing it as halfway between “Ballymagash and Killinaskully”. He said the taxpayer has been left on the hook for mistakes made by the IFI.

“There is a feeling that taxpayers’ money has been thrown around like snuff at a wake,” he said.

Mr O’Donnell admitted the organisation has made “governance mistakes which has overshadowed the excellent public service that we provide”.

“The shortcomings in terms of good governance, for which we apologise, were not deliberate and not deceitful in any way.”

Mr McCarthy referred to a decision by Mr O’Donnell to temporarily move his base to Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, instead of the IFI head office in Citywest, Co Dublin.

He told the committee he could find “no contemporaneous written record of the proposal for the work location change or of its financial implications, or of a decision in that regard by the board, which is responsible for setting the terms and conditions of the chief executive”.

Mr O’Donnell defended his decision during the Covid-19 pandemic to move his headquarters despite not getting board approval. He was living in Donegal at the time and he did not have a secure IT system at home to pay invoices.

“It was done with the best of intentions and it was done without malice,” he said.

The head office was only open one day a week during the pandemic, he added, and he was not aware that the decision had to be made by the full board. He paid back €5,000 in expenses incurred in relation to the temporary move.

Mr Dillon suggested that “we were well out of Covid-19″ when Mr O’Donnell made his decision in November 2021 to move his base temporarily to Ballyshannon.

Mr O’Donnell also said he had been subject to intimidation after reporting an instance of alleged fraud to An Garda Síochána last September. The allegation is still being investigated.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times