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Saturday 25 February 2017

Port firm 'thumbs nose' at TDs' pay queries

Semi-state won't say what chief receives

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

A SEMI-STATE company has been accused of "thumbing its nose" at TDs after refusing to reveal how much cash it pays its chief executive.

Shannon Foynes Port Company, which has been at the centre of a number of controversies in recent years, said it was unwilling to reveal the sum paid to its top official.

The commercial semi-state body was the only one of the country's major port companies surveyed by the Oireachtas Transport Committee to refuse to give the figure.

The refusal has escalated a stand-off between the port company and the committee, which has been seeking information about controversial land deals and legal settlements.

Committee member and Fine Gael TD for Louth, Fergus O'Dowd, said: "It is an absolute disgrace that the Shannon Foynes Port Company are thumbing their noses at the Oireachtas in this fashion."

Mr O'Dowd said the failure to cooperate only added to the controversy surrounding the port company in recent years.

However, in a statement the port company said information regarding the chief executive's salary was not given as there was "no CEO contract in place at present".

This is despite the fact that Pat Keating was appointed interim chief executive three years ago. His title has remained unchanged since then.

"The company would be happy to disclose the salary once the CEO's position is finalised," the statement said.

The committee has also been seeking information about a major settlement made with the port company's former chief executive Brian Byrne.

Shannon Foynes has claimed it is legally precluded from discussing the settlement, thought to be worth around €500,000.

The company, based in the Co Limerick town on Foynes, has also refused to answer questions about a confidential report by Deloitte & Touche into alleged land-deal irregularities.

Settlements were reached with Mr Byrne and a non-executive director, Morgan Leahy, in 2007 following a messy legal battle after the port company attempted to investigate a number of allegations against them.

The allegations, made by Limerick haulier Brian Cosgrove, concerned the setting up of a haulage firm that would have been given exclusive port company contracts. Both men strenuously denied the allegations.

Deloitte's report made findings in relation to a number of land deals at the port company. But the findings have yet to be published by Transport Minister Noel Dempsey and the port company will not comment on the report's contents.

The transport committee's survey showed that eight port companies paid their chief executives a combined total of more than €1m last year.

The figures supplied to the committee did not include director's fees, bonuses or any other benefits individual chief executives might receive.



Salaries

The best paid chief executive was Enda Connellan of Dublin Port Company, with a salary of €222,000. He was followed by Cork Port Company chief executive Brendan Keating, who was paid €183,158.

The next highest paid was Drogheda Port Company chief executive Paul Fleming, who received €151,485.

Average pay for staff across 10 leading port companies was €63,225. The best paid were Dublin Port workers, who received an average of €69,608.

Dundalk Port Company had the lowest pay, with average salaries coming in at €31,370.

Dublin and Cork had the largest wage bills. Dublin Port Company paid €11,555,000 to its 166 employees, while the Cork Port Company paid €8,084,399 to 126 staff.

Irish Independent

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