Independents lose out to FF in battle for chair of Dail watchdog
Published 16/06/2011 | 05:00
FIANNA FAIL last night took the leadership of the most powerful committee in the Dail after its candidate was supported by the government parties.
John McGuinness was elected by a decisive majority of 11 to two over the other nominee, independent TD Shane Ross, at the inaugural meeting of the Public Accounts Committee.
The chair of the committee -- which acts as a watchdog on public spending -- has traditionally gone to a TD from the largest opposition party.
However, this time the technical group -- comprised of Independent TDs and the five deputies from the United Left Alliance -- challenged that tradition and argued that it should no longer stand. It said Fianna Fail, with only 20 deputies, could not be characterised clearly as the Opposition.
The group won support from Sinn Fein, meaning that the Opposition parties were deadlocked at two votes each on the 13-person committee, leaving the nine government TDs to decide which would prevail.
But the government TDs sided with Fianna Fail's John McGuinness.
Fine Gael's John Deasy had a pop at Mr Ross after the Independent had been defeated in a vote for chairman.
Mr Ross had argued that it would be improper to allow a Fianna Fail TD to chair a committee that will probe spending under the previous Fianna Fail-led government.
But Mr Deasy said he would have voted for Mr McGuinness rather than Mr Ross anyway, adding: "I might have some concern about you (Mr Ross) and your cheerleading for (Irish Nationwide boss) Michael Fingleton and (former Anglo Irish chief executive) Seanie FitzPatrick."
Mr Deasy said he had followed Mr Ross's writing in the 'Sunday Independent' over the past decade and didn't believe it would be appropriate for him to chair the committee.
However, Mr Ross replied: "That's complete nonsense."
The Dublin South TD said that while he thought Mr McGuinness was a "marvellous" man, it was "utterly inappropriate" that any member of Fianna Fail should be put in charge of monitoring public accounts.
But members from Fine Gael and Labour were joined by Fianna Failers to secure the seat for Mr McGuinness.
The Labour Party's Michael McCarthy said that it was a long-held tradition that a member of the largest opposition party should chair the PAC.
Mr McGuinness said it was a "great honour and privilege" to be elected, adding: "By the nature of its role as the public spending watchdog, the PAC is one of the most powerful Oireachtas committees."
Kieran O'Donnell of Fine Gael was elected vice-chairman.