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'Just disgraceful' - TDs' outrage as Delaney refuses to give answers

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FAI executive vice president John Delaney (right) arrives for the meeting with Donal Conway (centre) and Director of Communications Cathal Dervan

FAI executive vice president John Delaney (right) arrives for the meeting with Donal Conway (centre) and Director of Communications Cathal Dervan

FAI executive vice president John Delaney (right) arrives for the meeting with Donal Conway (centre) and Director of Communications Cathal Dervan

John Delaney has given an account of why he loaned the Football Association of Ireland €100,000 - but then refused to answer any more questions on the matter, citing "legal advice".

The former FAI CEO was accused of behaving "disgracefully" by not answering questions on the matter during several hours of grilling by the Oireachtas Sport Committee.

Yesterday's meeting came amid the storm of controversy over a 2017 bridging loan made by Mr Delaney to the FAI and Sport Ireland's decision this week to suspend its public funding.

It emerged at the committee that most of the members of the board of the FAI didn't know that Mr Delaney provided the organisation with the loan for almost two years.

TDs heard that just three board members, one of whom was Mr Delaney himself, were aware of the loan at the time that it was extended in April 2017.

FAI president Donal Conway said the remainder of the board learned of it at a meeting on March 4 this year.

Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy said she was "absolutely astonished this is the way the FAI would have conducted business".

Mr Conway told TDs that Mr Delaney - who is now the FAI's executive vice president - provided the loan owing to concern over a possible cash-flow issue in 2017.

He said no contract or agreement was entered into, the loan was paid back in June 2017, and no interest was paid by the association.

Pressed

Mr Conway said the FAI had embarked on a review of its procedures to ensure that such a situation could not happen again.

The FAI's long-serving honorary treasurer, Eddie Murray, was one of the board members who was not aware of the bridging loan.

He said he didn't feel undermined by that when pressed on his feelings by Fine Gael TD Noel Rock.

"I would have thought I possibly should have been informed about it," Mr Murray said.

Fianna Fail TD Robert Troy challenged Mr Conway on why, despite the lack of knowledge about the loan among most of the board, the FAI released a statement last month saying the board had been kept fully informed of the matter at all times.

TDs weren't told who signed off on the statement, only that it was issued by the communications department and Mr Conway didn't approve it himself.

Earlier, Mr Delaney said he was "truly saddened" that Sport Ireland had announced it had temporarily withdrawn its funding.

He said he was advised at an internal FAI finance meeting on April 25, 2017, that if all cheques and FAI bank transfers issued to third parties at that time were presented for payment, the FAI would have exceeded its €1.5m bank overdraft.

Mr Delaney said he expressed "serious concern" as to how the FAI could have arrived at this position, but as the matter was "pressing" he wrote a cheque for €100,000 from his personal account to assist the organisation.

Mr Delaney said he accepted that the overdraft limit issue arose on his watch and he regretted the "embarrassment" caused to the FAI, its staff and volunteers.

He said he would fully assist the FAI in its engagement on the issue with Sport Ireland, consultancy firms Mazars and Grant Thornton, which are carrying out reviews, and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

Power

However, he said he could not answer questions from TDs on the loan, the association's finances or his time as chief executive, citing legal advice.

He said he could engage only with questions about his new role as the FAI's executive vice president.

Mr Delaney also said it was not within his power to ask an Oireachtas committee not to hold a meeting.

It came as he was asked about a claim in internal FAI correspondence that Noel Rock texted him last November saying he was "happy to push back against" a proposal from Catherine Murphy for Mr Delaney to appear before the Oireachtas Sport Committee.

Mr Rock has said he doesn't recall the alleged text message and he can find no record of any such text, iMessage or WhatsApp message.

Ms Murphy referred to the report, telling the committee meeting: "There was a serious allegation in the newspaper today against one of the other committee members here. I want the context about how that would have arisen.

"Mr Delaney, did you at any point ask that this committee meeting wouldn't happen? Or you would have desired that it didn't happen?"

Mr Delaney replied: "It's not within my power to ask this committee that."