Thursday 18 January 2018

CIE's controversial chairman to stay in €239,000-a-year post

Michael Brennan Political Correspondent

CONTROVERSIAL CIE chairman John Lynch has been re-appointed to his €239,000 post by the Government -- bringing the length of his reign to 11 years.

Mr Lynch (68) has been in charge of the semi-state body since 2000, having previously served as director general of FAS. He has overall responsibility for Dublin Bus, Bus Eireann and Iarnrod Eireann, which have more than 11,000 employees in total.

The Government's decision to extend his term by a further year, which was announced in the State's Iris Oifigiuil publication, came under fire last night.

"We believe all these appointments should come before the Oireachtas transport committee. We're very concerned about what's been happening in the CIE companies, there's a lack of transparency, a lack of accountability," Fine Gael transport spokesman Fergus O'Dowd said.

When Mr Lynch left FAS in 2000 to take up his post as chairman of CIE, he was given a pension based on 40 years' service even though he had worked only 17 years in the public sector.

The special deal, which required the passing of a statutory instrument by the Government, was signed off on by then Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy and then Enterprise Minister Mary Harney.

Mr Lynch gets paid €239,000 for his role as chairman of CIE, and also gets his FAS pension, which is worth around €100,000 a year.

As the head of a semi-state body, he was excluded from the public-sector pay cut announced in last December's Budget but he has taken a voluntary 10pc pay cut in response to Finance Minister Brian Lenihan's appeal in 2008.

He remains one of the best-paid semi-state bosses, although ESB chief executive Padraig McManus (€654,000) and Bord Gais chief executive John Mullins (€361,000) have larger salary and pension packages, according to their companies' most recent annual reports.

Mr Lynch was reappointed as CIE chairman by the Government in 2005 at a time when plans were afoot to break up CIE into three separate parts. Opposition TDs said his re-appointment signalled the plans were being abandoned -- and the Government never published the necessary legislation.

Mr O'Dowd said he was concerned that CIE was still refusing to publish some of the reports into procurement practices in the company -- and the full report into the collapse of the Malahide Viaduct on the Dublin-Belfast railway line.

But a CIE spokesman said a full report on the viaduct would be published by the Rail Accident Investigation Unit and the Railway Safety Commission.

"In terms of accountability, we have been to the Oireachtas Transport committee four times in the last seven months -- and twice in relation to the Malahide Viaduct," he said.

Mr Lynch has highlighted improvements in rail and bus services during his reign, which benefited from a massive government cash injection. The number of people travelling annually by bus increased by 18.9 million between 2000 to 2008, while rail passenger numbers increased by 11.6 million over the same period.

The Government is providing €276m in funding to Dublin Bus, Bus Eireann and Iarnrod Eireann this year, but all three services are implementing cutbacks as the economic recession hits passenger numbers.

Irish Independent

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