You are viewing the content for Monday 6 February 2006

Taggart press conference ‘undermines’ minister’s position

By Michael O’Farrell, Political Reporter
THE decision of Paschal Taggart to go ahead with a weekend press conference was an unprecedented affront to Sports Minister John O’Donoghue, Labour sports spokesman Jack Wall said yesterday.

Deputy Wall also called on Bord na gCon chairman Mr Taggart to "step aside" pending the completion of a report on the continuing controversy surrounding secret doping results.

"There is a need for Mr Taggart to step aside until the report is drawn up. I think he should step aside and not be part of Bord na gCon while the report is being drawn up," he said.

Despite an explicit request from Mr O’Donoghue not to, Mr Taggart proceeded with his controversial press conference on Saturday.

Since revelations of two unpublicised positive EPO tests first emerged, Mr Taggart has denied allegations of a cover-up made in a letter from former Bord na gCon chief executive Aidan Tynan to Mr O’Donoghue.

And he insists the sacking of Mr Tynan was in no way connected to a disagreement at the board’s control committee about keeping the EPO doping results secret.

Having received a report from Mr Taggart, Mr O’Donoghue has asked former Department of Justice secretary-general Tim Dalton to investigate.

In the meantime the minister’s pleas last week for no further public comments until Mr Dalton’s report is concluded fell on deaf ears.

In defiance of the wishes of Mr O’Donoghue, Mr Taggart persisted with a Shelbourne Park press conference which was attended by up to 200 supporters.

Deputy Wall said the move, from a man who was hired by the Government, was unprecedented.

"The minister made his position known that he didn’t want the press conference to go ahead. That position was undermined by Mr Taggart which was a surprise to me.

"It’s unprecedented in my knowledge of politics that if there was a request made by a minister of a person who was appointed by the Government that that would be ignored. I think it’s very disappointing to see it happen.

A spokesman for Mr O’Donoghue declined to comment saying the minster would not speak publicly until Mr Dalton’s report is finalised.

Under the Greyhound Industry Act 1958, the appointment and dismissal of any Bord na gCon chairman is at the sole discretion of the sitting Sports Minister.

But Mr Taggart used Saturday’s press conference to make a spirited defence of his position. The control committee’s decision not to publish the EPO doping results was made in the best interests of the industry, he said.

He also promised that in future all positive tests would be released to the media.