Sarah Keane’s appointment just the first step for OCI

It was shortly before 10pm on Thursday evening in Dublin’s Conrad Hotel when Sarah Keane was formally ratified as the new president of the Olympic Council of Ireland and any little remaining interest among the general public in the organisation’s internal politicking dissipated into the cold, dark night.

But the story didn’t end there.

Another two hours or so of election work still stretched ahead and, by the end of it, the sense of an old guard being routed had only been heightened given the fact two-thirds of the officers elected were first-time appointees.

Keane aside, the most notable result was the 28-15 vote in favour of Sarah O’Shea, the former vice-CEO of the FAI, over outgoing general secretary Dermot Henihan.

It was another landslide for the ‘change’ ticket after the 29 votes garnered by Keane who has been magnanimous in victory.

“For me, there is no real pride in seeing other people leave after a period of time. All those individuals put an awful lot of time and effort into Olympic sport over the year. At the last board meeting, we shook hands and said we have had different views but we all thought we were doing what was right for Olympic sport.”

The new boss denied that this could even be described as a victory.

Maybe not for her personally, but it is unquestionably just that for Irish sport.

William O’Brien, her chief rival on the night and a man with 20 years of OCI business under the considerable wing of Pat Hickey, had spoken of the need for continuity, a sentiment which was in stark contrast to the Deloitte report into the OCI’s governance, conducted post-Rio.

Deloitte criticised a lack of transparency, a failure to demarcate between roles, poor auditing and remuneration procedures and the absence of time limits for those in executive positions — among so much more besides — but acting on those words will take time, according to Keane.

“The Deloitte report can only be recommended if the national federations vote it in. So we’ve got to go out and start consulting with our federations. A lot of people do understand it but there is 26 recommendations there. We’re a company so we need 75% of our membership to vote in the changes.

“That people believe in governance, that the taxpayer knows their money is being used in the right way, that would be top of the agenda. But I am part of a board. There are people who didn’t get elected who I hope will still be involved because we need good people who are willing to put in their time.”

Like it or not, the body will be looking back as well as forward for some time yet.


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