‘Hickey should appear at committee’, says Sports Minister

Sports Minister Shane Ross has said any attempt to compel former Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) president Pat Hickey to appear before an Oireachtas committee could result in a legal challenge.

On a tour of West Cork, Mr Ross was asked whether he thought Mr Hickey should be compelled to appear before a committee.

“I do think Pat Hickey should appear,” he said. “The issue of compellability is deeply complicated. I can think of no phase where any committee has successfully compelled anybody to appear and what has happened in those cases or what will happen, I think, is that there will be a large number of court cases as a result.

“And if [Judge Carroll] Moran had got the power to compel — in other words, if it had been a full statutory inquiry — I think that would have happened as well, so it’s double-edged.

“Yes, I think he should appear. I think they should think very carefully before they go down the compellability road. It might just involve the State and a large amount of expense and it might not be successful.”

Mr Ross defended the Moran inquiry, describing it as “extremely successful” and said it had fulfilled its role which, he said, was “to produce a narrative and find out certain facts”, citing the “rotten culture” in the OCI as outlined by the inquiry’s findings and the roles of Pro10 and THG.

Meanwhile, Mr Ross said he and his Independent Alliance colleagues were “not happy” with how the homelessness crisis was being dealt with and indicated some budget preferences, while also engaging on local matters during his tour.

In Bandon, he discussed issues relating to the N71 and R586 roads and later visited Clonakilty before travelling on to Skibbereen, Schull, Bantry, and Glengarriff.

In Clonakilty he took on the role of ministerial bus conductor, stepping on board the new Local Link service which allows passengers to travel from the town to Kinsale.

The initiative has been warmly welcomed and David O’Brien of the West Cork Rural Transport Group said the two-year funding commitment meant the service would have a chance to grow passenger numbers. He said it was already in use by some commuters and could also work for students attending the Kinsale College of Further Education.

Mr O’Brien said it could “absolutely” be replicated elsewhere, while local TD Michael Collins said there was scope for extra local bus services along the western seaboard which had been “opened up” by the Wild Atlantic Way.

Yesterday’s tour of West Cork also involved tourism matters, and ahead of the budget, Mr Ross said he wanted to retain the 9% Vat rate for the hospitality sector.

“I would be in favour of retaining the 9%,” he said. “I understand the argument that is being made, particularly for the larger hotels where some people are maintaining that they no longer need that concession on their Vat. [But] it would be very difficult to differentiate.”

As for transport, Mr Ross said that “we are looking at several things” regarding the budget, and referred to hopes that more money would be allocated as per the mid-term capital review, which is also due shortly.


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