Ombudsman lashes out at 'rubber-stamp' political system
Published 10/03/2010 | 05:00
OMBUDSMAN and Information Commissioner Emily O'Reilly last night launched a scathing attack on the Irish political system and its "rubber stamp" parliament.
She criticised the system that allows politicians to vote along party lines, regardless of the argument or issue.
Ms O'Reilly has been left reeling after Dail motions, calling for her controversial 'Lost at Sea' report to be referred to an Oireachtas committee for investigation, were defeated by the Fianna Fail majority.
Under the 2001 scheme, owners of fishing boats which had been lost at sea between 1980 and 1990 could apply for compensation in the form of tonnage quota.
Yesterday's hard-hitting attack marks a new twist in the long-running tug of war between Ms O'Reilly's office and the Department of Agriculture, which has rejected her demand that it should pay a family €250,000 in compensation.
That was only the second time in the 25-year history of the Ombudsman that a recommendation of the State's watchdog's had been rejected.
Ms O'Reilly told senior public and civil servants last night that the Dail was now firmly controlled by the Executive because TDs were required to vote on a "predetermined basis".
In effect, she argued, the Government was now able to act as "the judge in its own case".
Last month, the Government had stopped the Oireachtas adjudicating on the 'Lost at Sea' dispute by having Government deputies vote along party lines, she said.
Ms O'Reilly told the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting conference: "Parliament in Ireland has been sidelined and is no longer in a position to hold the executive to account."
With the exception of the election of a Taoiseach, she said, almost all decisions of importance were taken by the Executive and then "rubber-stamped" by the Oireachtas.
Referring to the 'Lost at Sea' dispute, she commented: "The saga began with maladministration and has ended, to date at least, with poor governance."
In response to Ms O'Reilly's speech, the Department of Agriculture reiterated the insistence of junior minister Tony Killeen that payment in the case investigated was not warranted.
The former minister, Frank Fahey, has always defended the operation of the scheme, which saw two of his Galway constituents draw down 75pc of the quotas given out.
Efforts to contact him last night proved unsuccessful.
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