Tuesday 27 September 2016

Let's stop being defeatist about cronyism - and just end it

Published 25/02/2016 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny during the last TV Debate on RTE Prime Time. Photo: Tony Maxwell/PA Wire
Taoiseach Enda Kenny during the last TV Debate on RTE Prime Time. Photo: Tony Maxwell/PA Wire

It was definitely one of the better moments of the final television leaders' debate. Debate moderator Miriam O'Callaghan went to each of the four leaders and put the issue of 'cronyism' to them. Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin supporters might have felt happy as they watched.

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More recently, the pressure has rightly all been on the Government parties, Fine Gael and Labour. In autumn 2014, Fine Gael tied itself in knots as it emerged that it had appointed Donegal party member, John McNulty, to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

The move was to enhance Mr McNulty's credentials to take a Seanad seat on the cultural panel.

It was a major gaffe which seriously dented the Government's already battered "reformist" credentials.

Just last month, Labour and Joan Burton got into trouble when it emerged that it had appointed former trade union leader, David Begg, to chair the Pensions Authority. The difficulty was compounded by Labour's ethical image, and enhanced appointment procedures, which it had insisted upon and which were by-passed.

Mr Begg especially would appear to have good credentials for the job. But what is the point of having appointment procedures if you are going to invoke a by-pass clause?

Perhaps the best part of the television debate on this topic was that the other two parties represented also had form here from recent times past.

But of course, that had not stopped Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin from taking the offensive against Fine Gael in late 2014 and against Labour again last month. Well pot, kettle, black here, lads.

Sinn Féin appointed people associated with it to various bodies in the North. Fianna Fáil was notorious for its ability to batter its way through controversies past on the same issue.

The example cited to Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, on Tuesday night, had immediate resonance for many viewers of the leaders' debate.

It was the appointment of Celia Larkin, former partner of then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, in July 2005, to a consumer authority board.

The ensuing furore on that one was just water off a Fianna Fáil duck's back.

The common theme here is that all parties have shown themselves to be "do as I say" people on this issue.

It's cronyism for the other crowd!

Irish Independent

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