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Ireland Security ramped up at FAI HQ as gardai launch investigation into 'suspicious letters'

06:30  11 december  2019
06:30  11 december  2019 Source:   independent.ie

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a sign in front of a brick building: The FAI's headquarters in Abbotstown, Dublin. The FAI's headquarters in Abbotstown, Dublin.

Gardai are investigating suspicious letters which were sent to the Football Association of Ireland’s headquarters, Independent.ie can reveal. The embattled football association has ramped up security at their campus in Abbotstown in west Dublin over fears for staff safety on receipt of the post.

In an email to staff, interim executive lead Paul Cooke said the FAI was working in "close partnership with gardai" in relation to a "number of postal incidents" received at their headquarters in a 48 hour period. Cooke said the association was putting "certain safety measures" in place as a "precautionary mechanism" and will work with campus security to ensure continued staff safety. 

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"The staff involved have been fully supported and have cooperated with the Gardai in their investigations to these matters," Cooke said. "With this in mind a full review over the coming days will commence in the areas of open/close of the FAI HQ building. You may see an increase in security, again as a precautionary measure," he added.

Dublin , Ireland - 6 December 2019; FAI Executive Lead Paul Cooke during an FAI Press Conference at FAI HQ in Abbotstown, Dublin. (Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images) © SPORTSFILE Dublin , Ireland - 6 December 2019; FAI Executive Lead Paul Cooke during an FAI Press Conference at FAI HQ in Abbotstown, Dublin. (Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images) Cooke insisted staff safety was the association's priority and said there may be some disruption as security carry out a risk assessment following the postal incidents. "We ask that everyone fully cooperates with the measures put in place and to speak with the senior executive in your area should you have any questions or concerns," he said.

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The FAI said it would not be commenting on the nature of the suspicious letters due the sensitive nature of the incidents. Fine Gael TD Noel Rock said the association should do whatever is necessary to protect staff from any incidents of intimidation. "Staff safety should be a priority, and their safety and welfare are paramount," Rock said.

"At the end of the day these are normal people doing normal jobs and don’t deserve to be threatened. It’s terrible it has come to this," he added. Cooke’s message to staff came last Friday - on the same day the association revealed its massive €55m debt. It was also revealed that under-fire former chief executive John Delaney received a €462,000 exit package.

Members of Garda Siochana (Irish Police) patroling in Dublin's city center. On Wednesday, May 22, 2019, in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images) © Artur Widak/NurPhoto Members of Garda Siochana (Irish Police) patroling in Dublin's city center. On Wednesday, May 22, 2019, in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images) Gardai are currently examining the findings of an independent review of the FAI’s finances. Earlier, the FAI cancelled a planned appearance at the Oireachtas Sports Committee to discuss the association’s financial troubles. In a letter to the committee, interim executive lead Paul Cooke said the FAI board’s priority was to refinance its debt so it could secure jobs and protect the future of football in Ireland.

Gardai launch investigation into threats made against FAI staff in Abbottstown

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He said there were "urgent meetings" regarding the association's debt on Wednesday, when the hearing was due to take place. He also said the association was focused on the appointment of an independent chair of the board and three independent members. "For these reasons we are not in a position to attend on the date you have provided as the appropriate representatives from the FAI are not available to attend," he added.

However, Cooke assured the committee the FAI would appear when the "appropriate representatives" are next available. The chair of the Oireachtas Sport Committee, Fergus O’Dowd, raised questions over the FAI cancelling their appearance at the last minute. O’Dowd said the committee's clerk was ensured by the FAI on Sunday that they would be appearing at the hearing and said he was surprised by their decision to cancel.

Dublin , Ireland - 6 December 2019; FAI Board Member John Earley, Chairman of the Underage Committee, left, and executive lead Paul Cooke during an FAI Press Conference at FAI HQ in Abbotstown, Dublin. (Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images) © SPORTSFILE Dublin , Ireland - 6 December 2019; FAI Board Member John Earley, Chairman of the Underage Committee, left, and executive lead Paul Cooke during an FAI Press Conference at FAI HQ in Abbotstown, Dublin. (Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images) "I don’t know what they are afraid of," the Louth TD said. "Yes, there will be significant scrutiny but we will be looking to the future of the association," he added. O’Dowd said the FAI was assured that questioning would not impact on any garda investigation or on people’s right to due process. "We still want them to come in and they have offered to come in at a later date," he added.

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Sports Minister Shane Ross also turned down an opportunity to appear before the committee. Minister Ross said it would be "premature" for him to attend before the FAI had spoken and he agreed to go before the committee a week later.

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