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Kenny seeks answers on Fifa payment

Published 05/06/2015

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has weighed into the Fifa controversy
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has weighed into the Fifa controversy

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has weighed into the Fifa controversy to urge the country's football chief to fully explain a multi-million payment to halt a threatened legal battle over a Thierry Henry handball.

Football Association of Ireland (FAI) chief John Delaney said his organisation was handed five million euro after confronting Sepp Blatter about the Frenchman's role in Ireland's World Cup 2009 play-off defeat.

The fall-out has spilled over into a high-level summit of Ireland's cross-border peace-building North South Ministerial Council in Dublin, where leaders called on the Irish football executive to shed light on the transaction.

Mr Kenny described the payment as "quite extraordinary" and called on Mr Delaney to answer questions about the circumstances surrounding it.

"This is quite extraordinary," he said.

"But I would say that any questions that need to be answered here in the interests of transparency and accountability ... John Delaney should answer and will answer all of those questions, I'm quite sure."

Mr Kenny said he believed the FAI chief's position remained "tenable" and expressed his confidence that outstanding questions about the payment would be responded to.

Sports Minister Pascal Donohoe, also at the talks in Dublin Castle, said he spoke with Mr Delaney and also pressed him to bring "clarity and certainty" to the matter.

"It is in everybody's interest that these matters be cleared up," he said.

The minister added: "It is primarily a relationship and transaction that took place between the FAI and Fifa and I expect that clarity will be brought to this issue."

He added: "It is a significant amount of money, it is obviously something that the country does have a lot of interest in."

Mr Donohoe refused to say whether he was reassured or not after his conversation with Mr Delaney.

Asked if the FAI boss retained his confidence, he replied: "I support John Delaney in his work, I know the importance of grassroots soccer throughout our country."

Mr Donohoe added: "I support John Delaney and the work the FAI does. Alongside that, it is important that matters that are of interest to the public are answered and dealt with in a comprehensive manner and I expect that to happen."

The Sports Minister said he was "absolutely not aware" of any such payment and would be very surprised if any of his predecessors knew about it.

Separately, during the Republic of Ireland's training session in Malahide, Roy Keane refused to be drawn into the Fifa scandal.

"Not today, I'm not in the mood for all that stuff today," he said.

"If you want to ask me about the games coming up and the players we have, no problem.

"But I'm not going into the Fifa stuff. I'm here to work with the players and focus on the games coming up, so I'm not going there with that one."

The assistant manager and Mr Delaney have had a fractious past but both insist old wounds have healed since the former Manchester United skipper was drafted in to work under manager Martin O'Neill.

However, when asked if the chief executive was a distraction, the 43-year-old joked: "Isn't he always?"

In a statement last night, the FAI said the 5m euro was a legal settlement agreement reached with Fifa following the threat of a legal case by the association against the football's world governing body in early 2010.

It said there was a "confidentiality agreement required by Fifa as part of the settlement" which had prevented it from disclosing the payment before now.

Some lawyers have expressed surprise that a legal action could have been taken over a referee's decision in a World Cup play-off.

"The settlement was reached following strong legal advice given to the Association regarding the case against Fifa, and was a legitimate payment that enabled the Association to put 5m euro into the Aviva stadium project," the FAI said.

"This is fully reflected in our financial statements which are audited independently.

"The Association accepted Fifa's settlement offer to avoid a long, costly and protracted legal case. The offer given to the Association was fully written off by Fifa in 2014."

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