Athletics chief refutes allegations he ‘spoofed’ to committee

LIAM HENNESSY, president of Athletics Ireland, refuted allegations that he said he had spoofed and lied on his initial appearance when he was called before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Culture, Sport, Community and Gaeltacht Affairs yesterday.

“As to the allegation that I said I ‘spoofed’ it is quiet simply not a word that is in my lexicon and I can assure the committee that I did not say nor did I think it,” he said.

“It has also been alleged that I ‘lied’ to the committee about the availability of funds to meet legal costs that might accrue (from a High Court case). Again, I must refute that accusation in the strongest terms.

“I will acknowledge that I was not as well informed as to the scale or organisation of the association’s finances on that occasion as a witness to the committee should have been. I regret that the information was inaccurate but it was given to the committee by me in good faith. However, it is entirely different from the accusation that I knowingly gave false information. I did not and I never would.”

This was Hennessy’s second appearance before the Joint Oireachtas Committee after he was requested to attend to answer allegations that he had told a meeting of the Athletics Ireland Board after his last appearance that he had ‘spoofed and prevaricated’ throughout the meeting.

“Subsequent to my last appearance in front of the Joint Oireachtas Committee it was alleged that I had told a meeting of the AAI Board that I ‘spoofed and prevaricated’ throughout the meeting here,” he said.

“That report was then repeated by others in correspondence to third parties to this committee in October of this year and again in the media this weekend.

“For the record, I did actually use the word ‘prevaricate’ here on that day in the meeting itself. This was specifically in response to Deputy Olivia Mitchell. I indicated that by virtue of the specific question she asked me being the subject of a confidential legal negotiation, I was not at liberty to answer. I said, and I quote: ‘I am not at liberty to give details. It can be difficult when legal constraints apply and it may seem that we are prevaricating, but this is quiet difficult. We want to be as honest and open as we possibly can.’ These words I used here and I reported to my board on the committee meeting in similar terms.”

Hennessy was referring to when the Athletics Ireland board were in delicate negotiations with their former chief executive, Mary Coghlan, negotiations that eventually led to a High Court case which was amicably settled.

Hennessey also pointed out that official minutes from the meeting where he was alleged to have used the terms ‘spoofed’ and ‘prevaricated’ nowhere reflected such utterances by him.

“The existence and the repetition of these allegations has hurt athletics generally, the administration of the sport in particular and myself and my family most of all,” he said.

“It has been particularly hurtful that they should be repeated so readily and accepted as a truth without any reference to me for verification.

“I hope that after today this will not be the case in the future.”

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