FG admits it can't honour promise to purge boards
THE GOVERNMENT last night admitted it can't remove people from state boards -- despite a Fine Gael pre-election pledge to replace the membership of all boards within six months of taking office.
Fine Gael first said it would replace the membership of boards and then changed its stance to say it would ask board members to resign within six months.
But a government spokes- man, while outlining some reform to state board appointments, admitted legal issues meant people could not be removed.
Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton last year said state boards would be replaced, while Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said in January that board members "will be asked to resign within six months by Fine Gael if we form the next government". The government spokesman could not say if members may still be asked to resign. It means current boards will stay as they are, and appointments made in the dying days of the Fianna Fail/Greens government will not be changed.
New procedures for appointing people to boards were agreed by the Cabinet yesterday, and all positions will now be advertised. Previously, they were mostly appointed by the relevant minister without advertisement.
But the minister will not be "confined to the talent pool" that comes out of the responses to the advertised position.
When it comes to appointing chairs of state boards, a new process will see the Government send its preferred candidate before an Oireachtas committee to be questioned by TDs and senators.
However, the committees will not have a veto on the appointments and the final decisions will still rest with the Government. The government spokesman said a committee veto would require a change in legislation.
It comes after the Irish Independent revealed at the weekend that controversial TD Michael Lowry and former Independent deputy Jackie Healy-Rae were each given three positions on state boards to hand out to supporters as part of a secret deal struck with Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen.
Mr Healy-Rae's son Michael was appointed a member of the Citizen's Information Board (CIB) by then Minister Mary Hanafin on the orders of Mr Cowen.
Michael Healy-Rae, now a TD, says his appointment wasn't part of any deal.
Sylda Langford, chair of the CIB, yesterday said there was no legislation saying Mr Healy-Rae could not hold a Dail seat and a position on a board.