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FactCheck: Did Michael Healy-Rae ask a question at yesterday's Oireachtas Sports Committee?

The Kerry TD has been criticised for his contribution to the committee yesterday.

FAI OFFICIALS APPEARED before the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport yesterday for a long day of questions – many unanswered – from TDs and senators. 

The full committee proceedings and the aftermath has been given intense media scrutiny, with a €100,000 loan given to the FAI by its former CEO John Delaney still the primary focus. 

Another element being looked at is the statement made by Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae at the committee yesterday, with the deputy being criticised in the media for his performance. 

Healy-Rae has been accused by media pundits and his fellow Oireachtas members of not asking a single question of the FAI delegation. He has denied this, saying that he did.

But what are the facts? Did Michael Healy-Rae ask a question at yesterday’s Oireachtas Sports Committee?

The Claim

Michael Healy-Rae asked FAI delegates a question at yesterday’s Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport.

What was said

The Oireachtas Committee

Yesterday’s FAI delegation was made up of executive and board members, who were called before the committee to answer questions around a €100,000 loan provided to the association in 2017 from its then-CEO John Delaney.

Prior to the appearance, Sport Ireland announced that it was temporarily suspending funding to the organisation over the issue. 

Delaney – who last month moved from CEO of the role of Executive Vice President – was present before the committee, along with others. 

It was to be a frustrating day for the members of the Oireachtas. After an opening statement, Delaney said he was unable to answer any other questions in relation to the loan under legal advice. 

The committee sat in session for about six hours, and in that time TDs and senators repeatedly asked questions of Delaney and the board, many of which went unanswered or unexplained. 

Michael Healy-Rae also spoke at the committee. Healy-Rae is not a member of the committee, but was allowed to speak for three minutes under house rules. 

The Kerry TD began his three minutes by saying he was concerned over the withdrawal of Sport Ireland funding from the FAI, before going on to praise the John Delaney and his work with the organisation at length. 

Criticism

Healy-Rae’s approach drew the ire of some of the other TDs present, with Solidarity’s Ruth Coppinger in particular taking issue with his statement, saying the Oireachtas members were there to ask questions, not make statements.

Later yesterday evening, Healy-Rae appeared on Virgin Media’s the Tonight Show, where he clashed with presenter Ivan Yates and TheJournal.ie news editor Sinead O’Carroll over his performance at the committee. 

O’Carroll stated that Healy-Rae didn’t ask one question of the FAI delegation, with Healy-Rae insisting he did. 

“You didn’t ask any questions at the committee today?” O’Carroll said to Healy-Rae.

“And you have come tonight to say the good work that has been done in Kerry because of the money.

“That money is not John Delaney’s money, that money is coming directly from Sport Ireland. That money has now been temporarily suspended because of the actions of the FAI while John Delaney was the lead.

“How did you not have a question – when you know the good work that is done in Kerry – how did you not have a question about the obvious oversight of that money?”

Healy-Rae responded that he had raised concerns about the funding. 

“But Michael, you didn’t ask a question,” O’Carroll said.

“I did. I most certainly did,” said Healy-Rae. 

The Kerry TD also spoke this morning on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, defending his performance at the committee. 

O’Rourke asked Healy-Rae at least four times if he had asked Delaney or the other FAI members present a question. Healy-Rae defended his statements, before responding:

I asked a question and my question was that I was worried and I hoped that when these three reports would come back that it would put things in such a way that the funding – the state funding – will be able to be reinstated. 

Healy-Rae was referring to reports commissioned from Mazars and Grant Thornton looking into the issue of the €100,000 loan from Delaney as well as accountancy at the FAI. 

The Evidence

Healy-Rae spoke for about three minutes in total. You can watch his full contribution here:

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

He began by welcoming the delegation, before going on to express his concern over the loss of Sport Ireland funding to the FAI, pending the completion of the three reports. 

From there, he went on to say how anyone involved in business probably wished that looking back they had handled some matters differently, and how hindsight “is of great benefit to all of us”.

“I have no doubt that if Mr. Delaney had his time back perhaps this whole issue should have been dealt with a different way,” Healy-Rae then said.

However, I am quite confident that the only thing that Mr Delaney could be accused of is being passionately committed to his job, passionately committed to the survival of what I would call the business, that all he was trying to do was good.

He said that it was important to have proper governance and accountancy practices in organisations but that he “really cannot for the life of me see how the three reports will not come back in a positive way which will allow for the funding to come back”.

Healy-Rae then continued to praise Delaney’s work ethic, saying he was “eminently qualified and most definitely the best qualified person” for the role of Executive Vice President. 

He further praised Delaney work ethic, his reputation and the efforts he had gone to for the FAI. After being told by committee chairman Fergus O’Dowd that he one minute remaining, and a brief back and forth with Ruth Coppinger, Healy-Rae continued.

He talked about the work Delaney had done with the Kerry District League and praised him for what he said was his role in various projects in the county. 

He then closed on praising Delany on what he said he had done to ensure the opening of  the George O’Callaghan park for Castleisland AFC. 

“Mr Delaney will be most welcome to Kerry. He will get what I would call the mother of all welcomes when he comes to Kerry because his reputation and his respectability will proceed him down the road before he lands, and we will be there to welcome him,” he said. 

Healy-Rae finished his contribution by saying: 

If Mr Delaney is guilty of anything he is guilty of trying to help an association in the best way that he saw fit at that time. That is all he stands accused of in my book. 

After another brief exchange with the chairman and Coppinger, he said no more at the committee. 

Verdict  

In response to criticism both last night and this morning over his contribution at the Oireachtas Sports Committee, Michael Healy-Rae repeatedly asserted that he had asked a question, in response to statements that he had not.  

As is clear from a transcript from the committee, and the supplied video of the proceedings, Healy-Rae used his three minutes of speaking time to first express concerns at the withdrawal of Sport Ireland funding, and then to praise John Delaney.

It is clear that during this time he did not ask a question of Delaney or any of the other FAI officials who were present. 

As a result, we rate the claim that Michael Healy-Rae asked a question at yesterday’s Oireachtas Sports Committee: FALSE

As per our verdicts guide, this means: “The claim is inaccurate”.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here.

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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