herald

Friday 30 September 2016

Pressure mounting on OCI chief Hickey to speak on ticket scandal

Kevin Mallon, who will appear in court after the Games to answer ticket charges.
Kevin Mallon, who will appear in court after the Games to answer ticket charges.

Sports Minister Shane Ross has heaped pressure on Pat Hickey, president of the Olympic Council of Ireland, to make a public statement on the ticket touting scandal.

The incident has cast a shadow over Ireland's appearance at Rio, with one Dubliner arrested on suspicion of illegally selling tickets that were allocated to the OCI.

Kevin Mallon, an executive with sports hospitality company THG, is due to appear in court in Brazil.

Despite the controversy, Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) president Pat Hickey has remained silent. Several attempts by this newspaper to contact him have proved unsuccessful.

His son, Stephen, was once involved with THG. He is no longer involved with the company, and the OCI has issued a statement to clarify this and to distance itself from THG.

However, Mr Hickey has yet to speak to the media.

Last night on RTE's Drivetime, Sports Minister Mr Ross said it would be "useful" if Mr Hickey would comment.

"I think it would be very, very helpful if he did that, and if it was to reassure people and the public who have bought tickets it would be very useful indeed," he said.

Investigation

The minister, who will travel to Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, said he would keep the public updated on developments there.

An OCI investigation into the ticket touting is under way, said Mr Ross, who added that he would be in touch with Mr Hickey every day.

"One of the things he told me is that the tickets that were discovered, they're not all sourced through Ireland," said the minister. He did not say how many of the tickets were Irish, but he did say the figure of 1,000 sounds right based on "anecdotal evid- ence".

There is an "urgent" need to get to the root of the problem, he added.

Starting an investigation now would be "utterly wrong" of the Government, said Mr Ross, but if it felt that the inquiries are not adequate, then an investigation would be set up immediately.

The charges against Mr Mallon have not yet been made public. However, it is expected that any trial involving him will not take place until after the Games.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD Noel Rock has called for the OCI to appear in front of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Embarrassment

"This ongoing ticket scandal is an embarrassment, not just for the OCI but for the country in general," he said.

"While we should be enjoying and talking about the events taking place on the track and in the pool, we are discussing off-the-field antics and an Irishman arrested for selling OCI-allocated tickets on the black market.

"I am calling on the OCI and its president, Pat Hickey, to appear before PAC and answer questions."

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