Burton appoints former unions boss to €20k role
Tánaiste Joan Burton has been accused of "bestowing a Labour Party favour" after she used a little-known clause in the new public appointment rules to personally appoint former trade union leader David Begg to a €20,000 state board position.
Mr Begg, who resigned last year as general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), is to be the new chairman of the Pension Authority.
On his retirement, the Labour Party leader lavished praise on the union boss, saying he was a "relentlessly hard-working servant for the labour movement".
"David played a key role in supporting the work of the Labour Party in ensuring collective bargaining is legislated for by this Government," Ms Burton said.
Yesterday, the Tánaiste used a rule in the state board guidelines, which were established to avoid accusations of cronyism, to personally appoint Mr Begg to a board.
Ms Burton's spokesman said the rules are "flexible" on the appointment of state board chairs and allow ministers to appoint individuals who they believe are "evidentially and objectively highly qualified".
The Public Appointment Service was given responsibility to select candidates for state board positions following the John McNulty Seanad fiasco two years ago.
Fianna Fáil jobs spokesman Dara Calleary accused the Tánaiste of "bestowing a Labour party favour" by appointing Mr Begg.
"I don't doubt his qualifications, but this is a role many people would also be qualified for and there should have been an open competition given its importance," Mr Calleary said.
"Given the previous controversy surrounding Patrick McNulty, it is not appropriate for the Tánaiste to make this appointment just to bestow a Labour Party favour."
In a statement, Ms Burton said Mr Begg will bring "wide-ranging public sector, business and economic experience" to the role.
"As former general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Mr Begg's demonstrated ability to work with different perspectives will prove invaluable in identifying strategic opportunities as well as developing solutions to the complex challenges currently facing the pensions sector," she said.
"I wish David Begg every success in his position and I am confident he will be able to build on the pension reforms made in recent years.
"As we seek to improve levels of pension provision, the role of the authority will be key in the reform and simplification of the pensions landscape in ensuring schemes operate effectively and in providing a regulatory structure which gives pension savers confidence in the system."
Mr Begg is currently chairman of Barnardos and was also chief executive of Concern Worldwide in the late 1990s. He served also on the boards of Aer Lingus, the Central Bank and the National Economic and Social Council (NESC).
As ICTU general secretary he was central to the social partnership process and negotiated pay deals with successive governments. Over the past five years he was an influential figure among the trade unions during a series of public sector pay deals.
Ms Burton described him as a "true champion of workers" after he retired.
"In often challenging times, David has always put first what is in the best interests of the labour movement," she said.