Friday 19 December 2014

Rabbitte appoints Coalition cronies to jobs on state board

Minister fills posts just days before Cabinet reshuffle

Niall O'Connor, Fionnan Sheahan and Paul Melia

Published 26/06/2014 | 02:30

Pat Rabbitte
Pat Rabbitte
Denis Leonard
John Farrelly

PAT Rabbitte has quietly appointed two Coalition cronies to a state board in his final days as a Cabinet minister.

The Communications Minister has put a Labour Party by-election candidate and a former Fine Gael TD on the board of Bord na Mona.

Mr Rabbitte's move comes just a week before he is expected to be dropped from ministerial office by Labour Party leadership favourite Joan Burton.

Echoing the dying days of the Fianna Fail government, the appointment was approved at Cabinet by the outgoing minister without being officially announced.

Notably, Ms Burton is due to make a significant speech tonight on the need for the Coalition to push through with its promises of reform of the political system.

The appointments of former Fine Gael TD John Farrelly and Labour by-election candidate Denis Leonard, who both lost their council seats in the local elections, were agreed by the Cabinet – but were not publicly announced.

When he was in opposition, Mr Rabbitte was an outspoken critic of those with party political affiliations being appointed to state boards.

He once claimed that the former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was attempting to give state board appointments to the "entire Drumcondra branch" of Fianna Fail.

"When it comes to patronage and croneyism, Fianna Fail leaves other parties in the shade. It's pretty much par for the course in terms of their previous record," he said in 1999.

Mr Rabbitte's department confirmed the appointment of the two politicians.

"Yes, the Government has appointed both gentlemen – Mr Denis Leonard and Mr John Farrelly – to the board of Bord na Mona," a spokesman said.

Mr Leonard lost his seat on Westmeath County Council last month and finished seventh in the Longford-Westmeath by-election, which was won by Fine Gael's Nicky McFadden.

Mr Rabbitte launched the campaign of Mr Leonard in the 2009 local elections. The ex-councillor is a school teacher and a former member of Westmeath County Council. But the department claimed that he did have expertise in the area.

"Mr Leonard is a lifelong environmentalist with extensive management and administrative experience," a spokes- man said.

He will not be paid fees for sitting on the board as he is a public sector worker.

Mr Rabbitte's spokesman did not respond to calls from the Irish Independent.

Mr Leonard was also unavailable for comment.

Mr Farrelly told the Irish Independent he received a letter from Mr Rabbitte in recent days, which stated that he had been appointed to the board.

The former Fine Gael TD, who lost his seat on Meath County Council last month, said he had expressed an interest in being appointed to a state board three years ago.

He said he "is not sure" as to his exact remuneration when asked what he was being paid.

"What's done is done, there is rules and regulations regarding payments and appointments and I'm not going to try and change them," he said.

Mr Farrelly added that he was "delighted" to have been appointed and said he had 40 years of public experience under his belt.

Fees

"I'd say, with all due respects, if I hadn't been in political life for as long as I have, well, you can draw your own conclusions," he added.

Asked what he meant by this remark, Mr Farrelly said he did not want to say any more only to add that he was "very happy" to serve on the board.

The only Government appointment to a state board announced this week was Rose Hynes being reaffirmed as the chairperson of Bord Gais.

A spokesperson for Bord na Mona said that fees for directors were determined by the Government.

The non-executive chairman receives a fee of €21,600 and each of the directors receives an annual fee of €12,600. However, the department indicated that Mr Leonard would not receive fees because of his job as a teacher.

Ms Burton confirmed yesterday she will drop several Labour ministers if she is elected leader.

"Yes, there'll be changes . . . but I have not allowed myself to become presumptuous in that regard," she said.

Ms Burton is expected to drop Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn and Mr Rabbitte from the Cabinet.

Tonight, at the final Labour leadership debate, Ms Burton will refer in her speech in Dublin to the need for the commitments on reform to be followed through, saying: "'Reform' has become a dirty word in recent years, often because the fiscal hawks use it as code for slashing public services. We on the Left need to reclaim the word 'reform'."

Irish Independent

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