Sports Minister Shane Ross and junior minister Patrick O’Donovan confirmed the move in a press conference yesterday as the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) cancelled its own internal investigation into the affair.
Under plans backed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Attorney General Máire Whelan, the Government will launch an inquiry into the controversy which has overshadowed Ireland’s 2016 Olympic Games campaign. It will appoint a senior retired judge next week to lead a 12-week investigation.
The decision to set up the inquiry was taken after the ministers met with Ms Whelan, who recommended a non-statutory inquiry rather than a full-scale State probe.
Mr Ross said he is open to including previous Games in the terms of reference “as we don’t want to make them too limiting because obviously the inquiry may lead into areas which are historic”.
He dismissed suggestions Ms Whelan had insisted on a non-statutory inquiry — which does not include the same powers as a full State inquiry, including witness compellability — by saying he was also in favour of the decision.
Asked if the investigation will struggle to uncover the full facts due to the legal cases in Brazil involving OCI president Pat Hickey, THG director and Irishman Kevin James Mallon, and others, Mr Ross said: “It certainly will be limited because it won’t prejudice any trial.”
He later confirmed sections of the final report may have to be “redacted” for the same reason.
The decision to launch a non-statutory inquiry came after a fortnight of scandals surrounding the OCI, former licensed Olympics ticket re-seller THG, and current licensed reseller Pro10.
The situation has seen Mr Hickey, also vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, “temporarily” step down after being arrested in a dawn Rio raid, and Interpol arrest warrants launched for a billionaire football club owner amid lucrative international ticket scalping conspiracy claims.
In separate statements yesterday, the Olympic Council of Ireland, Pro10, and THG all confirmed they will co-operate fully with the investigation.
The OCI said its executive board, which a statement noted has appointed Arthur Cox as its legal advisers, is due to meet this weekend to discuss developments.
Meanwhile, the OCI and the two companies central to the ticket touting controversy have refused to answer questions about how the lucrative ticket contracts were awarded.
The Irish Examiner asked all parties a series of questions, including:
- Whether the ticket licences won by THG for London 2012 and Pro10 for Rio 2016 underwent open tender or any public advertising;
- If any other bids in both cases were sought or made;
- Whether the licences in each case were awarded on the basis of specific criteria showing a successful company had the resources to complete its work independently;
- If any application criteria changed between 2012 and 2016;
- The exact date Pro10 won the licence for Rio 2016 in 2015, the same year the company (May 20) and its own founder KMEPRO Ltd (April 28) were formed.
A THG spokesperson refused to answer the queries.
While all questions were lodged before midday yesterday, spokespersons for both the OCI and Pro10 failed to respond before the non-statutory inquiry was launched at 5.15pm.
Within one hour of the announcement, the OCI and Pro10 said they were now unable to answer the questions due to the inquiry.
Asked if the timing was designed to block any answers, a Pro10 spokesperson said “we had an inkling of what was going to happen” but insisted the delay in a response was a coincidence.
The news comes as Mr Hickey today begins his second full day in Rio’s notorious Bangu prison complex, which in a report last year was condemned for its “totally sub-human conditions” with inmates so hungry they had resorted to eating wet toilet paper.