The Chief Executive of Sport Ireland has declined to express confidence in the board of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).
John Treacy appeared before a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport today where Sport Ireland faced questions about governance in the FAI.
He criticised the association for failing to "provide any explanation on the circumstances" of the €100,000 loan from former FAI chief executive John Delaney.
When asked by Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster if he had confidence in the board of the FAI, Mr Treacy said: "I am not saying yes. "As it stands right now we have many questions".
He added that "where we are at the moment, we have asked questions, and we have not got answers and that raises serious concerns within the executive and within Sport Ireland".
Deputy Munster pressed him further, asking: "Do you have confidence in the FAI board? It's a yes or no answer." Mr Treacy hesitated and said: "Well I am not saying yes".
Sinn Féin's Imelda Munster asks the Chief Executive of Sport Ireland, John Treacy if he had confidence in the board of the FAI? pic.twitter.com/zS73y7DuuV— RTÉ Politics (@rtepolitics) April 3, 2019
The FAI sent a new letter yesterday to Sport Ireland, the statutory body with responsibility for the development of sport.
Mr Treacy read out the contents of the letter from FAI President Donal Conway at the committee hearing.
In the letter, the FAI apologised for the delay in responding to Sport Ireland and outlined that it has engaged consultancy firm Mazars to carry out an independent review.
The association said it was happy to meet Sport Ireland to review its financial records in relation to State funding.
Mr Conway's letter also outlined how the FAI has engaged with the Office of the Director of Corportate Enforcement.
Mr Treacy told the committee that Sport Ireland will write to the FAI in the next day or so to express its disappointment at the timing of the letter which was hand delivered this morning.
He added: "We will be raising the context of the letter which falls far short of what was expected by Sport Ireland. The letter does not provide any explanation on the circumstances of the loan and its repayment. The board of the FAI has not provided any legitimate reason to why it cannot provide the information requested.
"In the absence of adjudication as to whether the terms and conditions of grant approval have been complied with. We still await an explanation on the circumstances around the loan and its repayment."
Mr Treacy said Sport Ireland had asked questions about the loan given by Mr Delaney to the FAI.
He told the committee that it was a high priority and the organisation is awaiting the FAI's response.
Mr Treacy said Sport Ireland did not know anything about the loan and if there was a material deterioration in the association's finances then his organisation should have known about it.
He said that if Sport Ireland was not told about any material deterioration, it is a breach of the terms and conditions of funding.
Sport Ireland has asked for the terms of reference for the Mazars review, and to be included in the review.
It has now asked for a further response from the FAI by the close of business next Monday.
Facing questions about the loan from Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy, Chairperson of Sport Ireland Kieran Mulvey said the body has no idea what the shortfall in the FAI's finances was that required the bridging loan.
Mr Mulvey said that if the FAI had come to Sport Ireland seeking assistance, the organisation would have looked at the matter.
In his opening statement, Mr Treacy outlined that Sport Ireland's primary aim and responsibility is the security of, and return of investment for the approximately €2.9m in exchequer funding invested in the FAI on an annual basis.
He said: "To that end, Sport Ireland is satisfied that effective control mechanisms and frameworks are in place with regard to our investment in the FAI.
"Sport Ireland is satisfied that our funding invested in the FAI is fully accounted for and expended on the purpose for which it was intended.
"This is verified on an annual basis by our financial controller based on reviews of the FAI's financial statements and signed auditor statements stating that all our grant was expended for the purposes for which it was intended."
Mr Treacy also said that Sport Ireland has questions surrounding the appointment of John Delaney as the FAI's executive vice president.
Fine Gael Senator John O'Mahony asked the organisation to comment about the "haste" with which the new appointment was made by the FAI.
Mr Treacy said Sport Ireland was surprised that it was not consulted about that process.
He said the organisation does not know when the exercise to appoint the executive vice-president started, what process the FAI had, and how it concluded.
Sport Ireland comments on FAI funding
Mr Treacy said cutting funding for organisations like the FAI is "always a last resort" and something the body is reluctant to do as it will result in job losses.
He said Sport Ireland is reluctant to take such action as it would ultimately see people lose their jobs and FAI programmes in communities cease to exist.
His comments came in response to questions from Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy.
Mr Troy asked if there is any reason why Sport Ireland is not taking financial sanctions against the board of the FAI. He asked if Sport Ireland feared that financial cuts will hurt the athletes rather than the board.
Mr Treacy said: "It is always a last resort and we don't like doing it. We will go through a process. Certainly we are very disappointed in terms of the letter we received before we came in here today. That reflected my comment because you don't expect a comment like that."
"It was a very important letter that I wrote and that was a very disappointing answer. If you did turn around tomorrow morning and cut funding for the FAI - you have a period of time where you have given 50% of the funding already this year. You would be giving the other 50% of the funding in August/September time. There is a little bit of time, but if we did cut funding you would ultimately see people being let go of their jobs and programmes that have been invested in around the communities, basically cease to exist.
"That is the tricky piece and that is the piece that we have to balance. We are not there yet. Generally if we are going to cut funding we send in our auditors and if the auditors come back with really critical issues and verify for us, that is the territory that we get into. That is when the board decides."
Mr Troy said that the committee is in unison that nobody wants to see grassroots development positions cut.
But Fine Gael TD Noel Rock has issued a statement saying he believes "all State funding to the FAI should cease immediately until full clarity and answers are given".
Critical of yesterday's letter from the FAI to Sport Ireland, he said: "This latest letter hiding behind the Mazars report is insulting.
"This is a slap in the face to fans, and to Sport Ireland. I trust the FAI won't hide behind this Mazars excuse during our hearing on 10 April. We can't have a situation where the FAI is refusing to give answers due to a review that they themselves commissioned."