Before I commence my question, I join with the Taoiseach in offering our sympathies to the French people on the appalling fire that destroyed Notre Dame Cathedral yesterday evening. The cathedral belongs to the French people, but in many ways it belongs to the world. Many Members have experienced the joy of visiting it. Our sympathy and support go to the French people on the damage to such a wonderful, historic and iconic piece of architecture.
In recent weeks, the country has been dismayed by the unfolding saga at the Football Association of Ireland, FAI. Thousands of people of all ages, from schoolboy and schoolgirl level through to senior adult level, participate in FAI-run sports and soccer. Many participate by organising, mentoring or volunteering or by celebrating the game of football. Many people on the ground are extremely angry at the current state of affairs. The appearance last week before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport by the FAI was farcical on one level. However, it was effective on another because, although there was much obfuscation and a straightforward refusal to be open with the committee, the court of public opinion did not take too kindly to that. The Irish people saw that they, through their public representatives, were being denied an open and straightforward explanation in regard to the specific matter of a loan of €100,000 to the association by its former chief executive officer. Wider issues of governance and capacity within the FAI emerged from the revelations around that transaction. Essentially, in refusing to be open with the committee, the FAI and its former CEO were refusing to be open with the Irish people.
State support of soccer is substantial, totalling more than €50 million in the past decade. That support has rightly been withdrawn. It can only be restored when we have full, proper corporate governance and, critically, given the impact of the organisation and the number of people who depend on its being properly and effectively run, the commissioning by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, through Sport Ireland, of a truly independent forensic audit of the finances of the Football Association of Ireland.
Until this happens, the funding cannot be restored. We had the Genesis report well over a decade ago. Its recommendations were not followed through on, and questions remain as to why this is the case. This is now an opportunity to clean up once and for all and to give full transparency to the affairs of the association.
We learned at lunchtime that Deloitte has submitted a H4 form to the Companies Registration Office, CRO, stating that the FAI has been in breach of sections 281 and 282 of the Companies Act. The implications of this are that transactions may have occurred that were not brought to the attention of the auditors or of which they had no knowledge. Corporate governance expert Niamh Brennan said at lunchtime that it does not get any more serious than this. Failing to keep proper accounting records is indeed-----