BY JOHNNY CAROLAN
THE money was just resting in seven accounts, with no wrongdoing – this was the key message from Tuesday night’s remotely-held Cork County Board meeting.
On Friday night, the existence of seven bank accounts, consisting of approximately €176,000, had come to light. These were created to ring-fence funds relating to a hurley-and-helmet subsidy scheme and the county senior football and hurling panels’ holiday funds, but had remained inactive for a number of years, largely forgotten about.
A county board statement on Friday stated that the board’s executive and audit and risk committee had reviewed what it termed as ‘an issue of financial governance’ and an interim report has been issued to the executive for consideration.
On Tuesday night, county board chairperson Marc Sheehan expanded on that as he delivered a prepared speech to delegates.
He informed them that ‘no financial irregularities have occurred. Funds have been treated properly, accounted for, and correctly applied’.
‘An interim report has been issued by the audit and risk committee to the executive committee for consideration and a statement was provided to clubs and boards members on Friday last, May 28th.
‘Information in relation to the accounts was provided as part of the statement issued and based on the audit and risk committee’s work to date it is confident of the efficacy of the treatment of the funds involved and that all funds have been accounted for properly correctly and have been properly applied.
‘This is particularly concerning as those charged with the governance of the association at the present time, that is the principal officers, acted swiftly and appropriately to ensure that the issue was reviewed in a thorough and timely manner.’
In addition, Sheehan expressed his dissatisfaction with how the issue came to light, the board having to respond to queries from a newspaper.
‘However, it’s a matter of significant regret and concern that information relating to this process came into the public domain and board officers on Monday last, interrupting the audit and risk committee’s work,’ he said.
‘The comment, speculation and conjecture were unhelpful and damaging, but the officers of the board acted swiftly and appropriately to ensure the issue was dealt with in a swift and thorough manner.’
Former chairperson Ger Lane, Cork’s Munster Council delegate, held a similar view regarding the leaks and challenged Sheehan to get to the bottom of that issue.
‘There was no money missing,’ he said, ‘nobody had done anything to these accounts that impinges on the county board and that needs to be clearly stated. These accounts were operated in a good and honest manner.
‘What comes to mind is a GUBU situation – it may not be grotesque, but it is the other three, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented.
‘To read the front of the Irish Examiner last Saturday, with the heading and all that was in it, was damaging. The detail in it was mesmerising. I know leaks are common but one of this nature is damaging. I don’t know how you’re handling that, but I think it’s disgraceful.
‘I’ve no issue with the Examiner, if I was a journalist I’d be delighted with that type of story.
‘I don’t believe these accounts were a surprise to everyone in the county board. I’ll have more to say when the full report is issued.’
Paul McCarthy (Kinsale) agreed with Lane.
‘It has to be of grave concern,’ he said, ‘this has been a trend for the last two years or so, the leaking of information to newspapers prior to delegates and board officers finding out about it. This was up on the Examiner website at 8.30pm on Friday night.
‘There’s somebody leaking information to the papers. That needs to be rooted out and I think it’s incumbent on the chairman to sort it out.’
Marc Sheehan said that examining the source of the leaks would be a priority for him.
John O’Flynn (Freemount) asked if the full report will be circulated to delegates before the July meeting and also sought more information on the hurley scheme as he didn’t realise it existed.
‘I’m not sure what shape will be on the next report,’ Sheehan said, ‘but it will have to be considered by the executive in the first instance. I’m not going to give a commitment, the recommendations and learnings for the future will definitely be discussed.’