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Coveney facing Dail questions over state board position for FG activist

AGRICULTURE Minister Simon Coveney is to face further questions in the Dail about the appointment of a Fine Gael activist as head of a state board.

Despite promises to reform the process of appointing members to state boards, Phil Meaney was made chairman of Bord na gCon last week.

Mr Coveney bypassed the new procedures being brought in for board appointments because the position was vacant for a period.

Mr Meaney's appointment was approved by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore.

But the appointment has drawn criticism from Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

Although he is already appointed to the post, Mr Meaney is due to appear before the Oireachtas agriculture committee to be vetted on his qualifications for the job.

Mr Coveney said he appointed Mr Meaney because of his experience in greyhounds and coursing and not because of his role as a Fine Gael strategist.

But Sinn Fein agriculture spokesman Michael Colreavy said he wanted Mr Coveney to answer questions arising from the appointment.

"There needs to be an independent system for appointments to state boards. I'm not sure any such process was followed in this case. We still seem to have appointments on the basis of who knows who," he said.

The controversy comes after the Government kicked up a fuss over a series of last-minute appointments by outgoing Fianna Fail ministers.

Mr Kenny says the Government's legal advice is it can't reverse any of the 110 appointments to state boards in the dying days of the last Government, some of which involved figures with close links to Fianna Fail.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has written to six such appointees asking them to resign. But the minister has no power to force the resignations.

Irish Independent