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Monday 22 September 2014

A plum post for one of Bertie's closest friends

Taoiseach's election agent appointed to Seanad

Published 23/06/2007 | 00:00

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TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern's 'jobs for the boys' continued last night, as he gave another plum post to one of the so-called 'Drumcondra Mafia'.

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Chris Wall, Mr Ahern's election agent and one of his closest friends, was appointed to the Seanad by the Taoiseach.

It comes just days after it was revealed that Joe Burke, one of the friends who gave Mr Ahern a dig-out through loans in the early 1990s, is being reappointed as chairman of Dublin Port Company.

Fianna Fail general secretary Sean Dorgan, former FF TD Donie Cassidy and FF activist Peter Sands were also appointed to the Seanad. The four will only hold the seats, vacated by Senators elected as TDs in the general election, until the Seanad elections next month.

Coveted

These so-called 'weekend Senator' positions are highly coveted, granting unrestricted life-long access to Leinster House, the members' bar and restaurants, and free parking. The temporary Senators are paid the full salary for the next month, until the life of the present Seanad ends on July 22, and will be able to speak on legislation passing through the Upper House in that time.

Mr Wall is extremely close to the Taoiseach, but was not one of the 12 friends who made the payments or loans of over €50,000 to Mr Ahern in the early 1990s.

In a brief statement, released late yesterday by the Taoiseach's office, no reference is made to Mr Wall's relationship with Mr Ahern: "Mr Chris Wall has had a life-long involvement with athletics in Ireland and is a member of the Fianna Fail National Executive."

The four vacancies were created by the election to the Dail of Mary O'Rourke, Michael Kitt, Cyprian Brady and Brendan Kenneally, each of whom was a Taoiseach's nominee to the Seanad.

Mr Dorgan played a key role in Fianna Fail's general election victory, particularly on the grassroots organisation and candidate selection areas.

After losing his seat to Mary O'Rourke in the Longford-Westmeath constituency, Mr Cassidy is also being appointed as Leader of the House - a role he held previously. Mr Sands is a life-long trade unionist and former president of the Local Government and Public Services Union. He is a staunch party activist. and former director of elections for Fianna Fail in Louth and his son-in-law is a Fianna Fail county councillor.

In the general election, Mr Wall had been involved in the infamous letter drop urging voters in the Taoiseach's constituency to give their first preference to Mr Ahern and the second to Cyprian Brady.

Fianna Fail's third candidate, Mary Fitzpatrick, had claimed she was "shafted" as a result. Mr Wall, however, showed little remorse over the early morning letter drop.

Deadline

The deadline for nominations for the Seanad passed at 12 noon yesterday with 118 candidates running for the 43 seats up for grabs on the five Oireachtas panels.

These seats are voted upon by around 1,000 sitting TDs, outgoing Senators, county and city councillors.

The last 11 Senators will be appointed by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern after the Seanad elections.

The Green Party and the PDs are expected to get two seats each from this group.

Senators are paid an annual salary just short of €67,000, plus substantial allowances and expenses.

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