White admits email over daughter's work placement 'a mistake'
Published 18/11/2013 | 02:00
TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore is remaining silent on the case of a Labour junior minister who lobbied a university to change his daughter's work placement.
Junior minister for primary care Alex White sent an email from his Oireachtas account to NUI Galway, where his daughter is a medical student.
He wanted to have her one-year work placement switched from Letterkenny General Hospital to Sligo Regional Hospital – but received no response from NUI Galway.
A Labour source said there had been no comment yet from Mr Gilmore, who appointed Mr White as junior minister last year after Roisin Shortall had quit in a dispute over the location of primary-care centres.
But the party does not expect any action to be taken after Mr White admitted he should not have sent the email from his official Oireachtas account.
"Alex has put his hands up," the Labour source said.
It is understood that Mr White has briefed party colleagues about his actions but has received no reprimand from Mr Gilmore.
In a statement, he said that he had sent an email from his Oireachtas account on behalf of his daughter, seeking to have her student medical placement switched from Letterkenny to Sligo "for family reasons".
"I should have taken greater care to ensure it was sent from a personal email account," he said. Mr White said that he had not referred to himself in the email as a junior minister and instead signed it in the names of himself and his wife.
However, it is understood that it is standard practice for third-level institutions like NUI Galway to deal with students themselves in relation to course issues – not with their parents.
Under the code of conduct for ministers, there are general guidelines for how to act, rather than distinct rules.
Ministers are required to observe the highest standards of behaviour and act in good faith with transparency, fairness and impartiality to promote the common good in the performance of their official functions.
It is the first major controversy Mr White has been involved in since taking up office.
He was heavily involved in steering the abortion bill through the Dail and Seanad and securing agreement on measures to tackle alcohol abuse.
A spokesman for Mr Gilmore could not be contacted for comment in relation to the email.
By Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor