Mayo GAA has replied to queries and concerns expressed by a Mayo international fund-raising foundation, and denies claims that it owes money to a New York publican and restaurateur.
Wednesday night’s county board meeting did not permit any further discussion of the matter “due to legal constraints”, but will reconvene for an in-camera meeting on Monday.
Eugene Rooney, who owns the Oldcastle Irish pub, had requested nearly $20,000, which he alleged in a letter was owed to his establishment on foot of visits by Mayo footballers to New York in 2013 and 2014.
In a responding letter, county secretary Dermot Butler said that the Mayo GAA board "is not aware of any money owed to your pub and restaurant. Bills were presented by you arising out of meals and drinks authorised by Mayo GAA during the trips to New York. Agreement was reached between you and Mayo GAA board in relation to the amount due, and that agreed sum was discharged in full. No further monies are owed to you.
“You refer to Kevin O’Toole the treasurer refusing to pay bills arising out of the trips to New York in 2013 and 2014. Kevin O’Toole was not treasurer of Mayo GAA County Board in 2013 or 2014. He was secretary of Mayo GAA county board up to February 2013. He was elected treasurer in December 2015.”
The letters are just the latest shots in battles that been going on between the Mayo county executive and benefactors, principally financier Tim O'Leary, who established the Mayo GAA International Supporters Foundation (MGISF), which has already provided €150,000 to the county, but which has withheld funds from a big fund-raiser in New York last May pending clarification of governance issues in the county.
Mr O’Leary further disclosed in September that he was interested in securing the naming rights for Castlebar’s MacHale Park, currently held by county sponsors Elvery’s.
In a series of letters to clubs in the county and most recently to Mayo GAA’s auditors the foundation has raised concerns about where funds have been spent and other matters.
The county executive undertook to provide a "full response" to the initial letter, dated September 24th and received September 28th, at the following county committee meeting, which was postponed from October 16th to last Wednesday because the county chair, Mike Connelly, was unwell at the time.
Matters have been aggravated by an email reference from a Mayo officer to Mr O’Leary as “a donkey” and the playing of the song Shoe the Donkey at a match last weekend in Castlebar. A subsequent letter of apology explained this as a “lighthearted take on recent events”.
The county's "full response" to the concerns was contained in another letter from the county, read at this week's meeting and sent to the foundation secretary Heather Blond, clearly asking for the withheld funds to be released.
“The county board looks forward to the receipt of €250,000 raised on behalf of Mayo GAA county board by the foundation.”
The letter is careful to spell out the official GAA position on fund-raising groups. Centrally ordained protocols provide that any such bodies should be under the oversight of the county board, including having a cheque signatory, usually the county treasurer.
Mayo’s official fund-raising body, the letter emphasises, is Cairde Maigh Eo,
“Mayo GAA board are delighted to have the assistance of such a supporters’ network provided that there is a clear understanding that all funds raised are under the umbrella of Cairde Maigh Eo.
“As you will be aware Mayo GAA board has one fund-raising arm and that is Cairde Maigh Eo. Ultimate control of monies raised remains with Mayo GAA county board. The letter under response refers to the Academy, Centre of Excellence and general player welfare and development, and these align seamlessly with the aims of Mayo GAA.
“It is worth repeating, however, that any monies raised in the name of Mayo GAA must remain under the control of Mayo GAA county board.”
It is also claimed by the county that this was communicated to Mr O’Leary at the time of the gala night fund-raiser in New York.
“It was made abundantly clear to Mr O’Leary that monies raised in the name of Mayo GAA must remain within the control of Mayo GAA county board.”