IRELAND’S prime minister 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 €5 million (£4m) after confronting Sepp Blatter about the Frenchman’s role in Ireland’s World Cup play-off defeat by France in 2009.
The fall-out has spilled over into a 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 called on Mr Delaney to answer questions about the circumstances.
“This [payment] is quite extraordinary,” he said yesterday. “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 questions about the payment would be answered.
Sports minister Pascal Donohoe, also at the talks in Dublin Castle, said he spoke to Mr Delaney and also pressed him to bring “clarity and certainty” to the issue. “It is in everybody’s interest that these matters be cleared up,” he said.
Mr Donohoe 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.”
Asked if the FAI boss retained his confidence, Mr Donohoe replied: “I support John Delaney in his work, I know the importance of grassroots soccer throughout our country.
“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.”
Mr Donohoe said he was “absolutely not aware” of any such payment and would be very surprised if any of his predecessors in charge of Ireland’s sports ministry knew anything about it.
Separately, during the Republic of Ireland’s training session in Malahide, near Dublin, assistant coach of the Irish international side, 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.”
Keane, 43, and Mr Delaney have had a fractious past but both insist old wounds have healed since the former Manchester United skipper and Celtic player was drafted in to work under manager Martin O’Neill, formerly manager of Sunderland, Aston Villa and Celtic.
However, when asked if the chief executive was a distraction, Keane joked: “Isn’t he always?”
In a statement, the FAI said the €5m was a legal settlement reached with Fifa following the threat of a legal case by the association against 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.