State probe into Olympic tickets scandal ‘too lengthy’

A full State inquiry into Ireland’s Olympics ticket touting scandal was initially rejected by Government because it would “take years” to complete.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar revealed the situation amid ongoing criticism from the Opposition that the non-statutory inquiry announced last Friday does not have any powers to compel witnesses to attend, or to obtain key documents.

Speaking before Transport Minister Shane Ross and Sports Minister Patrick O’Donovan meet with Attorney General Máire Whelan today to finalise the terms of reference for the 12-week inquiry, Mr Varadkar said the limited investigation is the best approach to address the scandal.

Defending the position taken by Government, he said a full investigation would not lead to any immediate answers and could take years to uncover the truth of what happened.

“A statutory inquiry obviously takes a long time to set up and it sometimes can even require the resolution of the Dáil, or even primary legislation.

“That could take months and the inquiry may well take years if the statutory route is gone down.

“So I think the initial proposal [a limited non-statutory inquiry] is the right one,” he said.

Despite a broad welcome for the decision to set up a Government-backed inquiry last Friday, the decision to limit the investigation to one that is non-statutory has led to criticism from the Opposition over whether it will be able to uncover any facts.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme yesterday, Fianna Fáil communications spokesperson Timmy Dooley added further weight to the criticism by saying that while he will reserve judgement until the inquiry’s terms of reference are revealed, it risks becoming “a waste of time”.

The Clare TD said the key issue at the heart of the ticket touting controversy is the relationship between the Olympic Council of Ireland, THG, and Pro10, and that he remains “unsure” if a non-statutory inquiry will be able to clarify this issue.

However, while stressing that a statutory inquiry had not been fully ruled out, Transport Minister Mr Ross told reporters on Friday that the non-statutory investigation is the most appropriate at this stage because of ongoing legal issues in Brazil.

Mr Ross, Mr O’Donovan and Attorney General Ms Whelan are due to continue discussions over the terms of reference for the inquiry today, with mounting speculation that its range will include the lead-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

This is because THG was the OCI’s licensed ticket re-seller in 2012.

Meanwhile, a third cabinet minister has declined to say whether he wants Ireland to act on a request by Brazilian police through Interpol to arrest named individuals in this country and send them to the Latin American country for questioning.

In two separate moves last week, Brazilian police announced Interpol arrest warrants for the directors of THG and Pro10, with at least one individual from Ireland — THG’s solicitor David Patrick Gilmore, who is from Galway and currently based in Drumcondra, Dublin.

Garda sources have confirmed they cannot act on the international warrants until the Department of Justice makes a request to enact the warrants from the High Court, a move needed because Ireland and Brazil do not have an extradition treaty.

A spokesperson for Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald last week declined to comment on the issue, a position repeated by Mr Ross last Friday.

Asked for Government’s position on the warrant request yesterday, Mr Varadkar said: “I couldn’t comment on that; that’s the first I’ve heard of that.”

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