Court proceedings over legal privilege of FAI documents adjourned until June

Court proceedings over legal privilege of FAI documents adjourned until June

High Court proceedings to determine if certain documents given by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) to the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) are legally privileged have been adjourned to late June.

The materials which the FAI claims are privileged includes legal advice it received from its interim CEO, Rea Walshe, who is a qualified solicitor and is described by the FAI as its internal legal advisor.

The material at the centre of the application is contained in the minutes of several meetings of the FAI’s board of management held between February 2016 and March 2019.

Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds, who will determine if the material is legally privileged or not, was told during a brief hearing on Tuesday that both sides were consenting to the case going back to June 25th.

Kerida Naidoo SC, for the ODCE, said the matter could be put back in order to allow the sides to discuss matters in order to resolve issues between them.

Counsel said that the FAI had advanced additional non-privileged material to the ODCE which may help resolve some of the issues between them.

Shane Murphy SC, for the FAI, said his client was consenting to the adjournment in order to facilitate the investigation.

The ODCE’s application, made under the Companies Act 2014 against the FAI, comes as part of its probe into “certain matters” concerning the association.

The material was provided by the FAI to the ODCE earlier this month, following a request in April.

The FAI claims privilege over certain contents of 10 documents it has provided to the ODCE. It has made the claim in respect of limited passages of the documents in order to protect the FAI’s position against third parties and not the ODCE.

The documents sought include the minutes of all meetings of the FAI Board of Directors and Committees of the board from 1 January 2016 to 21 March 2019.

The items which the FAI claims privilege over includes legal advice the board received from Ms Walshe in February 2016 over an agreement with a prospective sponsor and in November that year of the FAI’s potential liability over possible and ongoing legal actions against it.

It also seeks to have legal advice the board received regarding an internal investigation and the rights of affected parties to bring appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in June 2017.

Other matters it seeks to claim privilege over are legal advice from Ms Walshe regarding disciplinary matters in December 2017 and legal advice concerning an application from one of its members concerning an application for a licence in January 2018.

An issue in the case is whether Ms Walshe can be considered as the association’s internal legal advisor at the relevant time.

This is because of the number of different titles Ms Walshe has held with the association since she was appointed as the FAI’s head of legal and licensing in 2014.

The FAI says that, despite holding the different roles, Ms Walshe has worked principally as a legal advisor to the association.

The ODCE has argued that there is insufficient evidence before the court that Ms Walshe was qualified to give legal advice to the association at the relevant meetings given that she had different titles with the FAI.

Aodhan O Faolain, Ireland International News Agency Ltd.

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