By Anthony Hennigan
There is a conciliatory tone to the report that Mayo GAA secretary Dermot Butler will present to next Sunday’s County Convention, yet the thanks he extends to financier Tim O’Leary for both a €150,000 personal donation to Mayo County Board and his role in organising a fundraising gala dinner in New York last May comes in the same week that the board and O’Leary have found themselves communicating through solicitors.
O’Leary is seeking full reimbursement of his 2018 donation on the grounds that the funds given to Mayo County Board were “misappropriated and/or otherwise used for a purpose for which they were not provided,” – an allegation that the board has said is “entirely without foundation” and “highly defamatory”.
However, in his annual report, Butler steers clear of discussing the minute details of the dispute other than to express hope that a mediation process will enable all sides to “move on”.
According to the secretary, Mayo GAA this year found itself in the media “for all the wrong reasons” because of the dispute that arose with the Mayo GAA International Supporters Foundation, of which O’Leary is chairman.
“I am not going to go over all of the articles that have appeared in the newspapers but it is disappointing that individuals used the media to tell their side of the story, a story that was not entirely correct,” writes the Crossmolina clubman.
“I would like at this stage to thank Tim O’Leary, Heather Blond and members of the foundation for organising the gala dinner in New York. I would also like to thank the people who donated so generously at the auction on the night. The foundation agreed to pay for the training camp at Rocklands GAA Club and I wish to thank the members of that club for making their facilities available to us,” remarks Butler.
“Tim O’Leary donated €150,000 to Mayo GAA in 2018 and this was put to use by the board. I wish to thank Tim O’Leary for his donation. That is the only money that Mayo GAA have received from either O’Leary or the foundation. [Mayo County Board] have never asked for any other money from O’Leary or the foundation.”
He continues: “Any money raised on behalf of Mayo GAA must come under the umbrella of Cairde Maigheo. The correct manner to sort out the breakdown in the relationship is around a table and at the time of going to press it is hoped that both sides will enter into a mediation process so that all sides can move on.”
Dermot Butler admits that the proposed Mayo GAA Centre of Excellence at Lough Lannagh has not progressed as swiftly as the County Board would have liked but insists that the project is very much alive. The Mayo GAA International Supporters Foundation said in November that its sources had confirmed that “the project is a ‘dead duck’ and will now not happen” but the Mayo GAA secretary disagrees.
“It has been delayed for environmental issues. Hopefully these will be resolved in the near future and we can get on with the business of building our Centre of Excellence.”
Dermot Butler describes the past number of months as being “most difficult” because of the “torrent of abuse” aimed at him and his fellow officers.
“It’s always easy for people to sit on a fence and criticise the officers of the board but why don’t these people put their names forward for a ‘job’? But, no, it’s easier to sit behind a faceless account on social media using a pseudo name (sic).
“People must remember that the officers carry out their duties in a voluntary capacity and while we don’t always do things right, we do our best for Mayo GAA.”
Mayo County Board issued a letter last Thursday informing Tim O’Leary that he would not be receiving a €150,000 reimbursement, arguing that there had been “no conditions” attached to his donation.