Monday 5 December 2016

Revealed: how Noonan 'divvied up' Nama post for Fine Gael crony

Coalition concerned to balance FG appointee with Labour face

Published 12/07/2015 | 02:30

Communications between the offices of finance minister Michael Noonan and Taoiseach Enda Kenny have exposed a cynical culture of political patronage at the highest levels in Government
Communications between the offices of finance minister Michael Noonan and Taoiseach Enda Kenny have exposed a cynical culture of political patronage at the highest levels in Government

Communications between the offices of finance minister Michael Noonan and Taoiseach Enda Kenny have exposed a cynical culture of political patronage at the highest levels in Government.

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In an email on February 28 last year, Mr Noonan's special advisor Eoin Dorgan told the Taoiseach's chief of staff Mark Kennelly of his minister's concern that the proposed and imminent appointment of the Fine Gael trustee to the board of Nama would need to be balanced with appointments for the Labour Party.

In the confidential memo obtained by Renua leader Lucinda Creighton under the Freedom of Information Act, Mr Dorgan said: "The minister proposes to appoint Mari Hurley to the board of Nama and the minister is conscious of the need to balance this appointment with appointments for Labour."

Mr Dorgan went on to inform the Taoiseach's most senior aide that the finance minister had three vacancies on the Nama board and two vacancies on the board of the Central Bank, which were available to be filled.

Mr Noonan's advisor made it clear, however, that one of Nama's three board slots would be filled by Ms Hurley.

He said: "The appointment of a female member (Mari Hurley) to the Nama board is urgent at present as there is no female board members [sic]."

Responding to the contents of the email, Ms Creighton said: "This is utterly corrosive to the reputation of democracy. It is outrageous that Fine Gael and Labour are divvying up state board jobs on the basis of party membership. The revelations in this document indicate the serious need for a political watchdog. This was a role Labour claimed they would play.

"Both Mr Kennelly, Enda Kenny's most senior advisor, and Mr Dorgan, a senior advisor to finance minister Michael Noonan, must at a minimum appear before the appropriate Dail committee or public forum to further explain this exchange."

While Nama's website highlights Mari Hurley's extensive professional experience - as chief financial officer of Web Reservations International and her former roles with the Sherry FitzGerald Group, Bear Stearns Bank and accountants, Arthur Andersen in its biography of her - it makes no mention of her affiliation with Fine Gael. Apart from her role as a party trustee, Ms Hurley worked full-time on Fine Gael's unsuccessful 1997 General Election campaign.

At other times, she served as Fine Gael's youth officer, chairwoman of Fine Gael's national executive council and as a member of the party's policy commission.

In 2012, she was appointed to the board of Pobal. In June 2013, she was appointed by the coalition to the board of Bord Gais Eireann.

Referring to her appointment to Nama's board at the Dail's Public Accounts Committee in May of last year, Nama chairman Frank Daly said: "Ms Hurley has the requisite skills, expertise and experience to be a great asset to the board of Nama and to the taxpayer and the minister is grateful she accepted this position."

Sunday Independent

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