FAI hearing: John Delaney refuses to play ball (on legal advice)
Former CEO unwilling to answer questions on €100k loan “either directly or indirectly”
“At no stage are we trying to delay answering a question,” said FAI President Donal Conway at 11.33am, straining to convince the Oireachtas Committee for Tourism, Transport and Sport of the association’s bona-fides and its wish to be seen as a good boy, maybe even the best boy.
“On legal advice, I am precluded from making any further comment in relation to the finances of the Association or my former role as CEO or the €100,000 payment either directly or indirectly,” said FAI Executive Vice-President John Delaney at 11:43am, not giving a sweet, swinging rooty-toot about any of that kind of carry-on.
Here’s the thing, lads. You come at John Delaney, you best not miss. More to the point, you best not spend the weeks leading up to it yakadoodling away on radio and on TV about your outrage at the state of affairs over which John Delaney has presided. More than anything, that is what John Delaney wants. Outrage is where he lives. Rent-free, of course.
And so, when he came before the Oireachtas Committee for Tourism, Transport and Sport this morning, nothing suited him more than to be arriving in on the back of a few days of Fine Gael’s Noel Rock shaking his fist at the sky whenever a microphone was put in front of him. It’s music to his ears. He might even get up and dance to it. Anyone got Nadia Forde’s number handy?
“Given that some members of this committee have made highly prejudicial public pronouncements about me personally prior to my attendance here today and in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Kerins case, I would ask that the committee respects this position,” was Delaney’s follow-up.
Reader, it is our sad and solemn duty to inform you that respect this position is precisely what they did. Independent TD Catherine Murphy went at Delaney with her first question, pushing the ex-CEO on what the FAI’s finance director Eamon Breen’s response was when Delaney asked if the €100k loan needed to be reported. Delaney put his pen down and said, with apparently endless patience, “Deputy, I’ve made it clear from my statement that on legal advice, I can’t add anything to what I’ve said.”
And that was that. Murphy moved on to ask all her remaining questions to Conway. Noel Rock came next and likewise sent everything in Conway’s direction. Onto John O’Mahony, ditto. It was a full 23 minutes later, when Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy asked a question about Bray Wanderers and directly put it to Delaney, that anyone seemed to remember the great man was in the room at all. Only momentarily, however.
“I think I should take those questions,” interjected Conway.
“Well, I want to ask Mr Delaney to answer . . .” said Troy
“Mr Delaney has said he can’t answer questions about his former role as CEO,” said Conway, looking up to committee chairman Fergus O’Dowd for an escape hatch.
O’Dowd checked back through Delaney’s statement and decided that Delaney was safe as houses. “Okay, Mr Delaney, you don’t have to answer that question.”
So there you go. A committee meeting that had been billed as the chance for John Delaney to finally have to sit and answer some questions - any questions - had gone on for close to two and a half hours at this stage and Delaney’s speaking time amounted to the grand total of less than four minutes.
And so it went. Conway took the shelling for the rest of the morning, every so often pleading to his questioners that they were bringing up internal FAI matters that it wouldn’t be fair for him to have to go into. When Murphy asked him directly why only three board members knew about Delaney’s €100k loan, he replied with: “It was managed the way it was managed.” An FAI logo in the making, if ever there was one.
At 12.25pm, Delaney put up his hand and asked O’Dowd for a minute. “Sorry, Mr Chairman, can I take a comfort break?”
“Okay, should we adjourn for 10 minutes?” asked O’Dowd.
“No,” said Delaney, “I just mean for me.”
Since it was clear that the whole show could roll merrily along with or without the Executive Vice President, O’Dowd readily acceded to the request. And like that, Delaney was away to the jacks with a smile for reporters as he passed at the door.
Not a scratch on him, not a hair out of place.