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FAI claims legal privilege over 10 documents provided to State watchdog as part of probe

The High Court is to determine whether the documents contain privileged material.

Rea Walshe (far left) as part of an FAI delegation attending an Oireachtas heating last month.
Rea Walshe (far left) as part of an FAI delegation attending an Oireachtas heating last month.
Image: Leah Farrell

THE FAI HAS asked the High Court to consider whether advice from Rea Walshe is considered privileged, in part because the company’s interim CEO is a solicitor.

The request was made as part of an application by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) that seeks the court’s determination as to whether documents given to it by the FAI contain privileged legal material.

The application, made under the 2014 Companies Act, comes as part of a probe by the ODCE in relation to “certain matters” concerning the FAI.

As part of material provided by the FAI to the State’s corporate watchdog, several documents were provided in a separate container which the association seeks to claim privilege over.

In court this morning, these relevant documents were provided to Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds and highlighted in yellow for the judge to consider. 

The court was told that 10 documents in 15 parts were highlighted and that the court “should not be troubled” in making a swift determination on them.

Shane Murphy SC, on behalf of the FAI, told the court that the documents contained details of external and internal legal advice as well as the decision to seek legal advice.

This includes advice from Walshe, who became interim CEO of the FAI on 22 March.

Among the documents which the FAI provided to the ODCE are the minutes of all meetings of the FAI Board of Directors and Committees of the board for the period 1 January 2016 to 21 March 2019.

Ms Justice Reynolds sought details of Walshe’s role within the company in that period Murphy told that her “title changed at various stages” to include both company secretary and legal advisor.

Murphy told the judge that Walshe was a solicitor “at all times” during her time with the company.

Elva Duffy Bl for the ODCE said it was “unclear what her function was”.

The court has sought that parties clarify if Walshe was hired as an in-house legal advisor.

The ODCE has not seen the documents being adjudicated on and said last week that the integrity of that allegedly privileged material supplied has been maintained.

At a recent hearing before the Oireachtas Committee on Sport, Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy said that the FAI is subject to “substantial” engagement with the ODCE over matters that the watchdog had raised with it.

TheJournal.ie reported last month that a second complaint regarding alleged discrepancies in the FAI’s finances has been made to the ODCE, and it is understood that it relates to a matter separate to the €100,000 loan provided to the Association by then-CEO John Delaney in 2017.

The judge has adjourned the case until 3pm today

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Rónán Duffy

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