Sunday 17 December 2017

Cowen and Gormley at loggerheads over report

Taoiseach opposed to controversial 'Lost at Sea' probe

ine Kerr Political Correspondent

THE Taoiseach and the Green Party leader are now at odds over how to deal with a controversial report from the Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has refused to bow to opposition demands for the 'Lost at Sea' report to go before an Oireachtas committee. He has repeatedly insisted the matter has already been dealt with by the Department of Agriculture.

But Green Party leader and Environment Minister John Gormley last night piled pressure on the Taoiseach to reverse that stance, saying the report should be examined by a committee.

Mr Gormley further revealed that the whole issue had not been discussed in depth by the Cabinet. "It's very important that Oireachtas committees be allowed carry out their duties. I would have no difficulty with that," he said.

"I do believe in openness and transparency and I do believe in getting to the bottom of matters and I've no difficulty with that."

He signalled he would be raising the matter with the Taoiseach and his government colleagues.

The Government's rejection of the Ombudsman's report was only the second time in the 25-year history of the Ombudsman that a recommendation of the State's watchdog had been rejected.

In a recent Dail vote, government-supporting parties voted down proposals to have the report examined by an Oireachtas committee.

That vote prompted Ms O'Reilly to launch a scathing attack on the political system last week, in which she claimed politicians were simply voting along party lines, regardless of the issue.


Asked about that voting pact and the Taoiseach ruling out further action on the report, Mr Gormley said the issue would have to be looked at.

"There was no real discussion on that. I've no difficulty, as I said, addressing the issue in more detail and looking at all of the options that are available to us in order to advance any further investigation," he said.

"It's one of those issues that has not been discussed in any great detail, if at all, at Cabinet. It needs to be discussed further."

Under the 2001 'Lost at Sea' scheme, owners of fishing boats that had been lost at sea between 1980 and 1990 could apply for compensation in the form of tonnage quota.

In her report, Ms O'Reilly criticised the scheme, initiated by then minister and now sitting Fianna Fail TD Frank Fahey, saying its design and the way it was advertised were "contrary to fair and sound administration".

The report was sparked by the case of Francis Byrne, a fishing-boat owner who lost his life, along with his 16-year-old son Jimmy and three other crew, off the coast of Donegal in 1981.

Irish Independent

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