Ombudsman says FF forced TDs to reject fishing report
OMBUDSMAN Emily O'Reilly accused the Government last night of whipping its TDs into line to reject her report into a fishing compensation scheme.
She said it appeared that the whip system -- which causes TDs to vote along party lines -- had led the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee to vote down her report on the 'Lost at Sea' fishing scheme.
The committee rejected her report by nine votes to seven.
"The implication is that the Government is allowed be the judge in its own case," she said.
Ms O'Reilly mounted a three-year investigation into a complaint by the family of Francis Byrne, a fishing boat owner who lost his life along with his 16-year-old son Jimmy and three other crew off Donegal in 1981.
His widow was left with a young family of five boys and three girls. But she was denied a grant under the scheme, which had been set up by the former marine minister Frank Fahey to help fishing families who had lost boats.
Ms O'Reilly's report said the design of the scheme and the way it was advertised were "contrary to fair and sound administration". She referred her report to the Oireachtas after the Department of Agriculture had ignored her recommendation to pay €245,000 in compensation to the Byrne family.
But committee member and Fianna Fail TD Bobby Aylward said: "You can call it a party whip or whatever -- but I'd be calling it democracy at its best."
Mr Fahey has previously welcomed the Oireachtas committee's decision.