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'I didn't seek to delay probe', says Delaney

Ex-FAI chief blames the Irish media for having to leave to set up new life in London

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John Delaney

John Delaney

Colin Keegan

John Delaney

Former FAI chief executive John Delaney has rejected claims by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) of engaging in conduct that would paralyse the watchdog's investigative powers.

In a sworn statement, Mr Delaney said he needed extra time to examine thousands of files, including the contents of his emails, so he can set out what he says are covered by legal professional privilege and cannot be used by the ODCE as part of its criminal investigation into the FAI.

The High Court was due later this month to make a determination on whether some of the files are covered by legal privilege and cannot be used by the ODCE.

Warrant

However, arising out of Mr Delaney's application for extra time, that application is not proceeding and the matter will next be mentioned before the courts in September.

The files, which consist of 13 hard copy documents and a digital device containing 270,000 separate files, including the former chief executive's emails, were seized from the FAI's offices at Abbotstown on foot of a search warrant last February.

An agreed plan was put in place to allow Mr Delaney to examine the files to see which ones were private to him or covered by professional legal privilege and cannot be used by the ODCE as part of its investigation into certain matters concerning the FAI.

It was envisaged that the inspection would be completed before the end of July.

However, Mr Delaney, who is a notice party to the action, asked for additional time to examine the files due to the large number of files involved.

That application was opposed by the ODCE. Mr Delaney said the ODCE was seeking to "complicate" what is "a relatively simple exercise".

It had no objections to his request to involve an IT forensic expert.

However, the ODCE said it had put in place a system, with sufficient facilities software and expertise, that balances the rights and obligations of all parties and made the timetable entirely achievable.

Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds had directed Mr Delaney produce an affidavit setting out his co-operation with the inspection process to date.

In it, he denied trying to delay the process.

Mr Delaney said he did not know how many documents would need to be inspected.

He said he was concerned that his rights may be infringed if he and his lawyers were not given enough time to inspect the documentation, and the amount of time allotted to examine the files he said was "surprising and disquieting".

The documentation he said contained emails going back several years.

It could not only contain his work for the FAI but also his work for Uefa, and other bodies he had worked with during his time with the association, as well as his personal and private emails.

He said that he went to work in the UK, where he lives in a "modest" shared two-bedroom apartment near his place of work, to provide for his family.

He said "since March 2019 over 1,000 media articles have been written in relation to me which had a huge negative impact on me and my family".

Because of the negative and hostile media in Ireland he moved to the UK in October 2019 and now works 60 to 80 hours a week to manage the operations of a start-up business which provides "essential services to public bodies in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic".

He said he had hoped to return to Ireland to inspect the documents, but due to Covid-19 travel restrictions and the demands of his work, Mr Delaney said he made arrangements for his solicitor, Aidan Eames, to inspect the documents.

He said that he was in telephonic contact with Mr Eames regarding the inspection.

He rejected the ODCE's suggestion that he had ignored a direction to return to Ireland to personally inspect the items.

He said he has "acted in good faith" and was disappointed to be criticised after making genuine and sincere efforts to assist the ODCE in the investigations.

Ms Justice Reynolds said the court was anxious for the matter to proceed.

She directed Mr Delaney's lawyers to furnish the ODCE with the number of documents he said were covered by professional legal privilege and a schedule listing those documents by early September.