Sunday 22 October 2017

Sinn Fein TD paid €10,000 to lead committee without a role

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

A SINN Fein TD has defended the €10,000 he has received for serving as chairman of a new committee that only met a handful of times.

The investigations committee had been expected to be up-and-running quickly but it suffered a setback after the defeat of the referendum last year to give more inquiry powers to TDs.

It has met just seven times since it was set up 12 months ago. Over the same period, the Public Accounts committee met 40 times and the Finance/Public Expenditure committee met 54 times.

"It was frustrated through a lack of resources and it was frustrated through a lack of political will as well," Sinn Fein Meath West TD Peadar Toibin said.

The committee could not get agreement on what its new role should be, despite having submitted proposals to the Dail authorities last January.

Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett clearly stated in the Dail recently that the "problem" was that nothing could happen until the Government put forward a motion to give the new committee its powers.

Defending his €10,000 payment, Mr Toibin said that the committee had also suffered from a shortage of administrative staff -- so he had to do much of the work himself.

"I took meetings with Minister Brendan Howlin, with party whips, with staff here and with members of the committee. All work that would have been done by a clerk had a clerk been around," he said.

The committee has now finally got agreement on its role.

It will have the power to carry out probes into reports by the Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly about failures by Government departments, councils, the HSE and other public bodies.

Its name has been changed from the Investigations, Oversight and Petitions committee to the Public Service Oversight and Petitions committee.

Mr Toibin said he hoped to get the new committee fully up and running by September at the latest.

Irish Independent

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