Tuesday 21 November 2017

Burton hits out at TDs over vote of no confidence

Labour Party leader Joan Burton. Photo: Arthur Carron
Labour Party leader Joan Burton. Photo: Arthur Carron
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Labour Party leader Joan Burton has rounded on members of the Dáil's Technical Group following their decision to table a motion of no confidence in her record as Tánaiste.

During a heated Dáil debate, Ms Burton staunchly defended her decision to appoint former trade unionist David Begg as chairman of the Pensions Authority.

The controversy erupted last week after it emerged she waived the normal public appointments procedure, instead using a clause in the guidelines that allows her to personally offer the post to the former ICTU chief.

The move to hand Mr Begg the €20,520-a-year post led to accusations of cronyism, and prompted Independent TD Shane Ross to table the motion - which was countered by the Government.

During last night's debate, Taoiseach Enda Kenny labelled Mr Ross as a "cheerleader" for certain bankers in the former Anglo Irish Bank.

"That record is there for all to see in black and white and I'm sure you'll understand that," Mr Kenny said.

Ms Burton was flanked by three Labour Ministers - Jan O'Sullivan, Alex White and Ged Nash - as she came under attack for appointing Mr Begg to the role.

Kicking off the debate on behalf of the Technical Group, Waterford TD John Halligan strongly criticised Mr Begg's claim that his remuneration is "not exactly a crock of gold".

"What an appalling insult. I could fill this chamber 100 times over with pensioners, people on validity, people with disabilities, low-paid workers and the unemployed, all of those earning less than €20,000 per year," Mr Halligan.

"I'm tired and I'm a little bit worn down meeting people in hopeless situations with no money, no food," he added.

The focus of the debate, which will conclude with a vote tonight, quickly moved on to Ms Burton's record as Social Protection Minister.

Dublin Bay North TD Finian McGrath highlighted an RTÉ programme this week which detailed the hardship facing homeless families in Dublin.

"Where is the social protection for those children? Where is the support and care for those families?" Mr McGrath said.

Kildare North TD Catherine Murphy said she was "sorry" she felt she had no option but to vote in favour of the motion put forward by the Technical Group.

"The system is bypassed for someone perceived to be an insider," Ms Murphy said.

Socialist TD Paul Murphy dismissed claims by Labour politicians that no rules were broken by the appointment.


"It is the equivalent of 'the dog ate my homework'," he said.

"I am very strongly of the opinion that David Begg has not been appointed because of those qualifications."

Responding to the criticism, Ms Burton strongly defended the decision to appoint Mr Begg.

"The chair of a State board must be a person of integrity. He or she must be someone with expertise and experience in the issues which the board has to deal with," she said.

"David Begg is all of these things."

She accused Mr Ross of having a "personal vendetta" against Mr Begg.

"We can all recall who Shane Ross championed for senior roles in Irish life. He championed Sean Fitzpatrick in particular," she said. "But to be fair, Deputy Ross wasn't alone in singing the praises of Anglo bankers.

In 2006, Fianna Fáil appointed another Anglo banker, Tiernan O'Mahoney, as chair of the then Pensions Board," she added.

Irish Independent

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