Sports Minister Shane Ross has called on senior International Olympic Committee members to intervene in Ireland’s black market ticket scandal after hitting a “brick wall” in his attempts to get answers from officials in this country.
Mr Ross made the request during a detailed Rio meeting with IOC director general Christophe de Kepper after he was left “absolutely stunned” by the lack of accountability from Olympic Council of Ireland president Pat Hickey over the affair.
A week after Ireland’s Olympic Games became embroiled in a growing controversy over the alleged ticketing touting, Mr Ross flew to Brazil at the weekend to get answers from Mr Hickey.
However, despite telling the OCI president an independent person is now needed in any group set up by the sports body to investigate the situation to ensure transparency, the plan was rejected out of hand by Mr Hickey during a “tense” Sunday night meeting.
The OCI president - who also refused to give any further information to Mr Ross as it may prejudice the case of Irishman Kevin Mallon, who was arrested in Rio in relation to the alleged ticket sales - claimed the meeting was “excellent” in an interview with RTÉ on Monday morning.
However, in a response entirely at odds with the remark, Mr Ross said he was left “absolutely stunned” by the lack of accountability in the sports body - later demanding answers from the IOC’s director general Mr de Kepper.
“I’m absolutely stunned by their [the OCI’s] reaction, I can’t believe they will refuse to take an independent person onto their inquiry.
“It [the meeting with Mr Hickey] was fairly tense, it was fairly direct and fairly frank. We just met a brick wall. The OCI simply has its head in the sand. They feel they are somehow above accountability to the Irish people, to the Government, and that situation cannot be allowed to continue.
“The [OCI investigation] committee is now flawed from the beginning,” he said.
Due to the stand-off with Irish officials over the ticket fiasco, Mr Ross met with Mr de Kepper in Rio demanding pressure is placed on Mr Hickey and others to clarify what has happened.
It is understood Mr Ross also warned that no OCI investigation will be believed unless an independent person is involved in any investigation by the Irish sports body. However, despite the move, an OCI statement to the Irish Examiner repeated the view that no further information will be released while Mr Mallon remains in jail.
The stand-off emerged as Fine Gael backbench TD and Dáil sports committee chair Brendan Griffin said he wants the cross-party group to return “as soon as possible” to grill OCI chiefs over the controversy.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley has called for the Revenue Commissioners, office of corporate enforcement and potentially gardaí to become involved in investigations if the OCI does not provide full transparency.
The Clare TD said the moves may be needed, and said Mr Ross was “naive” to think he could “go to Rio and all the answers would just be provided”.
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