Sunday 25 September 2016

Revealed: FG TDs appoint relatives as their Dáil assistants

Published 25/03/2016 | 02:30

Enda Kenny with sisters Kate O’Connell (left) and Theresa Newman at the annual Fine Gael Presidential dinner in the Burlington in 2013. Photo: Julien Behal/Maxwells
Enda Kenny with sisters Kate O’Connell (left) and Theresa Newman at the annual Fine Gael Presidential dinner in the Burlington in 2013. Photo: Julien Behal/Maxwells
Maria Bailey and her father John. Photo: Tom Burke

Two Fine Gael TDs have hired family members as assistants in Leinster House in a move that will reignite the debate over nepotism in politics.

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Newly elected deputies Kate O'Connell and Maria Bailey chose to appoint close relatives to the post of parliamentary assistant in recent days, the Irish Independent can reveal.

Ms O'Connell, who unseated former minister Lucinda Creighton in the Dublin Bay South constituency last month, has hired her sister Theresa Newman to the €49,000-per-year position.

And her Dáil colleague Maria Bailey has hired her father and Fine Gael councillor John Bailey to the same post.

Mr Bailey, a former chairman of the Dublin GAA county board, is to share the post with councillor Marie Baker.

The pair both serve as members on Dún Laoghaire County Council.

Ms Baker also served as Ms Bailey's campaign manager during the General Election.

The Irish Independent has learned that Ms Bailey hired her father and campaign manager without holding interviews for the post.

However, both individuals played a leading role in ensuring Ms Bailey was elected in the three-seat constituency.

Ms O'Connell received around 25 applications for the position of parliamentary assistant but whittled the number of applicants down to five.

After conducting a series of interviews, she offered the position to her sister, who also played a leading role in her election campaign in the four-seat Dublin Bay South constituency.

Embarrassment

Nonetheless, the move by the two new deputies will come as an embarrassment for Fine Gael. Party sources said no advice was issued to its deputies in relation to the hiring of staff.

One party source said it was "unfortunate" that the two TDs opted to hire family members due to the "public perception" it created.

"But at the end of the day, these are decisions for TDs and it is left up to them in terms of whom they hire."

Last night, both Ms O'Connell and Ms Bailey defended their decisions to hire close relatives.

Ms Bailey, who took one of two Fine Gael seats in the constituency last month, described her father as the "perfect fit" for the role.

"I had to hire people who I can trust and who can best represent my constituents," Ms Bailey said.

"Both Dad and Marie have worked side-by-side with me for 12 years. We are on the same wavelength; we mightn't agree on everything all of the time but we know the goals we want to deliver for the constituency."

Meanwhile, Ms O'Connell said she was "open" in terms of who to hire - but felt her sister was best placed for the role.

She said her sister had worked closely with her on four campaigns, three of which were successful. She added that her sibling had extensive media contacts having worked previously as a journalist.

"I'm a new TD and I need to have people I trust, skilled people who I can work with and more importantly can work with me," she said.

"I was genuinely open-minded if somebody came along, but Theresa was the most qualified for the job."

Irish Independent

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