The government has defended the extension of contracts for the chairman of Sport Ireland Kieran Mulvey and CEO of Sport Ireland John Treacy after Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry alleged that the reappointments breached government guidelines.

Speaking at the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee, Mr McSharry noted that guidelines for appointment of members of non-commercial state boards provide for a maximum of two terms or eight years.

He cited last week's announcement that Sport Ireland was extending the terms of Mr Mulvey, who has been in post since 2010, and Mr Treacy, who has been in post since 1999.

Sport Ireland was formed in 2015 as an amalgamation of the Irish Sports Council and the National Sports Campus Development Authority.

Mr McSharry said this appeared to breach the Sport Ireland Act, the guidelines for appointment of CEOs of non-commercial state bodies, and guidelines for appointments to state boards. 

He asked the Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure of Reform, which oversees public service pay, whether a business case had been submitted for these extensions and which section of the guidelines or underpinning legislation provided for such extensions.Robert Watt responded that the guidelines were "in the main" not set out in legislation, adding that he did not know whether a business case had been submitted to justify the extensions.

Mr MacSharry noted they had been having a "clear out" and moving away from the "old guard".

He said it was not personal, but the fact was that the existing regime in Sport Ireland had presided over the FAI "debacles" for many years. 

"The point is to be reappointing these people against the guidelines we have is akin to reappointing the financial regulator after the bank bailout at the same time as that organisation is presiding or is a party to it," Mr MacSharry said.

"It looks a bit grubby that they are telling us to tidy up sports organisations and we're going to continue on 
in our roles for life," he continued. 

In a statement following the PAC meeting, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform confirmed that Ministerial approval is required if it it is decided that a board member should serve an additional term or where a renewal would bring the total period of service above eight years. 

DPER said guidelines for the appointments of CEOs of state bodies require that the parent department (in this case the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media) receive and examine a business case from the state body contemplating an extension to the term of office of a CEO. 

The business case should be examined having regard to the board's assessment of the CEO's performance, the objective justification to retain the current CEO, and any legal advice obtained, if necessary.

DPER said that in September 2020, the Department of Transport made a submission seeking a "modest" extension to the term of the CEO of Sport Ireland, highlighting the challenges for the sports sector arising from the pandemic and the rescheduled Olympic and Paralympic games now due to take place next year.

The extension was approved by DPER "on that basis in line with the guidance."

The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media noted that Kieran Mulvey had served one five-year term as Chair of Sport Ireland and had previously served as Chair of the Irish Sports Council. 

Other directors reappointed by the Minister Catherine Martin had each served one two-year term as directors of Sport Ireland, but neither had previously served on the Boards of Sport Ireland, the Irish Sports Council or the National Sports Campus Development Authority.
 
Regarding extensions of the contract, the Department of Sport notes that DPER guidelines for the appointment of CEOs say that in general they are appointed for one five-year fixed-term contract. 

With regards to the reappointment of incumbent CEOs the guidelines state: "In exceptional circumstances, the Board may wish to reappoint a CEO. If the Board wishes to reappoint the CEO for one further and final term, they should submit a business case to their Parent Department."

The Department of Sport said the board of Sport Ireland agreed to submit a business case for reappointing the Chair and Chief Executive to the relevant ministers and that the matter was discussed between those ministers and Sport Ireland Chair Kieran Mulvey on 7 September. 

The business cases for the reappointments were set out in submissions to the ministers which informed the decisions taken. 

The Department of Sport said the decision was justified "in recognition of the uniquely challenging circumstances facing the Irish sport sector and Sport Ireland, and the need to retain experienced leadership in the agency at this time."

It said Mr Treacy's contract of employment is with Sport Ireland so any questions regarding that contract should be addressed to them.