THE Fianna Fail-led Government is stuffing quangos and state boards with political cronies and insiders in its last weeks of office.
In an unprecedented spree of patronage, ministers have appointed Fianna Fail councillors and supporters to often lucrative part-time boardroom positions.
In the last two weeks, a series of appointments has been rubberstamped by ministers.
Leitrim FF councillor Mary Bohan has joined the board of the Health and Safety Authority, which paid its board members €97,067 in 2009. She was also appointed by Fianna Fail to the Central Fisheries Board and has served, unpaid, on the Fire Services Council.
Donegal FF councillor David Alcorn has been appointed to the National Roads Authority, which paid its directors a total of €98,000 in 2008.
Former Louth Fianna Fail councillor and activist Pearse Hanrahan has been put onto the board of the Railway Procurement Agency, which paid its board members €13,000 last year.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey -- who is to stand down at the forthcoming General Election -- appointed both men to the key infrastructure jobs.
Fianna Fail party trustee Rich Howlin was reappointed as chairman of the National Building Agency, which paid €11,970 last year. Mr Howlin, a trustee of the party since 1993, is a former director of Coillte. Financier and Fianna Fail loyalist Dan McGing was appointed as chairman of the Drug Treatment Centre Board. The former ACC banker was once the party's auditor.
Former Progressive Democrat local-election candidate Rita Hayes has been put on the board of the National Treatment Purchase Fund with a three-year term. Board members are paid €7,695.
Ms Hayes was appointed to the post by her former Progressive Democrat constituency colleague Mary Harney.
Former Fianna Fail spin doctor Jackie Gallagher is one of the ministerial nominees to join the board of Trinity College. The post is unpaid.
Some 291 plum jobs on state boards are to be filled by ministers by the end of February as the Government bestows its final gifts to its supporters before the expected decimation in the General Election.
Fianna Fail is utterly shameless when it comes to appointing party cronies to state boards.
In recent years, former Fianna Fail general-secretary Pat Farrell has been appointed to the boards of the Health Service Executive, VHI and Dormant Accounts Board.
Former Fianna Fail senator Aidan Eames sits on the board of An Bord Gais, which paid him €11,753 in 2009. He was appointed to the board of the nationalised Anglo Irish Bank last year.
Former FF Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh was appointed by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan to BoI. He is chairman of the bloodstock quango Horse Sport Ireland. The board of the ESB includes former FF councillor Gary Keegan, while the loss-making Dublin Airport Authority has former FF minister Gerry Collins on its board.
CIE's board includes Paul Kiely, one of Bertie Ahern's closest allies, as well as Neil Ormond, who comes from a staunch Fianna Fail background.
But Fianna Fail is not alone in this regard. Progressive Democrat party trustee Brendan Malone has also served on the boards of the Dublin Docklands Authority and the Railway Procurement Agency, while another former party loyalist, Paul Mackay, sits on the board of the IDA.
The Green Party has also seen a number of key insiders parachuted on to state boards during its term in office.