Irish Sports Council (ISC ) board member Galwayman John Byrne has won his High Court action against the organisation's decision to investigate him over allegations of wrongdoing.
Mr Justice Michael Peart said on Tuesday that the ISC's decision to appoint an investigator to probe complaints made against Mr Byrne by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI ) regarding funding matters had to be quashed. In a reserved judgment, he said the board did not have the power to investigate one of its own members.
Mr Byrne was appointed to the ISC, the body that directs the development of sport in Ireland, by the Minister for Sport in 2009. Its responsibilities include sports funding, high performance and anti-doping.
He is CEO of the Community Games; a sports and public affairs consultant; a board member of the Health and Safety Authority; and a former director of special projects with the FAI.
The High Court had heard that the investigation was opened earlier this year after the ISC received a letter from the FAI concerning a number of emails, allegedly from Mr Byrne, regarding funding matters.
The FAI claimed that the content of what it said were "extremely serious" emails, amounted to a grave and improper interference by Mr Byrne in the funding process.
Arising out of the complaint on April 16 last, the ISC appointed Paul Appleby, a former Director of Corporate Enforcement, to conduct an investigation into the allegations, which, if proved, would breach the ISC's code of conduct.
Mr Byrne, who denies any allegations of wrongdoing, claimed the investigation was unjust, lacked fair procedures and alleged that the ISC board lacked the jurisdiction to carry out the inquiry.
He had asked the court to quash the ISC's decision to appoint Mr Appleby as the independent investigator.
Mr Byrne had stated he also feared the allegations against him were being pre-judged and that he would be forced to resign from the board. This, he claimed, could seriously damage his reputation and standing.
The ISC had opposed Mr Byrne's action, arguing it was entitled to conduct an investigation under its code of conduct.
Mr Justice Peart said it was not intended under the 1999 Sports Council Act that the council should have the power to investigate the conduct of a member. Only the Sports Minister had the power to remove a board member, he said