€520k OCI funds set to be suspended

Noel Rock: OCI must comply.

The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) looks set to see its state funding suspended until investigations into the Rio ticket cartel controversy are concluded.

Leading members of the Dáil’s spending watchdog, the public accounts committee (PAC), last night said the Government must not be afraid to use the levers of power available to it to ensure compliance from the OCI.

Senior Government sources, speaking to the Irish Examiner, have confirmed that suspending the funding to the OCI is “one of the leading options being considered by Government”.

“Clearly the events in Rio have changed things utterly. External oversight into the OCI is now a minimum requirement and we will use whatever mechanisms we have to to ensure this,” said one source.

Three days ago, following a meeting between the now arrested OCI president Pat Hickey and Sports Minister Shane Ross, the OCI refused to accept any independent person onto its inquiry team.

Given Mr Hickey’s arrest in Rio yesterday morning, there was a broad political consensus last night to consider pulling the funding, worth €520,000 a year, unless full co-operation is given.

Fine Gael TD and PAC member Noel Rock last night said while he would not like to see any impact on athletes’ funding, all possible levers of power must be utilised to ensure all outstanding questions are answered.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Rock said: “If it is the only thing that will make the OCI comply and bring about the sort of external examination that is badly needed, then that is what needs to be done.

“If we need to bring that force to bear, then so be it. If there are ways that athletes’ funding is not interrupted, then this is a lever at our disposal, and we should not be afraid to use that lever if necessary.”

In the wake of Mr Hickey’s arrest, Mr Ross made the decision to return home to discuss the fallout. Mr Ross said he will discuss with officials and his Cabinet colleagues on the best way forward as well as plans for the inquiry.

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