Cash-strapped CIÉ has defended its controversial ownership of three corporate boxes at Croke Park and the new Aviva stadium, and maintains that its decision to take two of the boxes in lieu of a direct payment represented a good deal for the company.

But it has also confirmed that the boxes have in the past been used by its chairman, Dr John Lynch, and the head of Irish Rail, Dick Fearn, to attend matches along with other staff.

The company revealed last week that it owns three such boxes – a 12-seat and a 24-seat box at Croke Park and a 12-seat box at the new Aviva stadium – and has so far rented out only one of these as a way of generating income.

"CIÉ has leased a 12-seater box in Croke Park since 1995, which is used by the company... Dr Lynch and Mr Fearn have attended matches on occasions in the 12-seater box," its spokesman said. "When the Canal End was being developed, CIÉ received, in part-payment for permission to develop the Canal End stand over the railway line, a second box, a 24-seater. This has never been used by CIÉ and has been leased back to the GAA since it became available in 2002, and produces a continuing income stream for CIÉ."

However, CIE would not say how much this "leaseback" arrangement is worth to the company, citing commercial confidentiality.