Thursday 22 February 2018

FF votes against watchdog fishing report

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

FIANNA Fail was last night accused of undermining the office of the Ombudsman and putting its future in doubt.

The charges were made by opposition TDs after a report by ombudsman Emily O'Reilly into a controversial compensation scheme for families who lost boats at sea had been rejected by the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee.

It is the first time that a body of the Oireachtas has publicly ruled against the office of the Ombudsman, which was set up to represent people who feel that they have been treated unfairly by the State.

Ms O'Reilly undertook a three-year investigation after the widow of a fisherman who died off Donegal in 1981 was left with a young family of eight but was denied a grant under the Lost at Sea scheme.

Ms O'Reilly criticised the scheme, saying its design and the way it was advertised were "contrary to fair and sound administration".


She referred her report to the Oireachtas after the Department of Agriculture ignored her recommendation that it should pay €245,000 in compensation to the Byrne family.

But at a private meeting yesterday, all nine Fianna Fail members of the Oireachtas Agriculture committee voted to reject the findings of the 'Lost at Sea' report and defeated the six votes by TDs from Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein.

Committee member and Fine Gael TD Tom Sheahan said Fianna Fail was willing to damage the Ombudsman in order to protect the former Marine Minister, Frank Fahey, who was responsible for the scheme.

However, Mr Fahey welcomed the committee's vote.

"I wholeheartedly agreed with the recommendations of the department and if the committee has decided to accept those recommendations, I believe that's right," he said.

A spokesman for Ms O'Reilly said she would not be making any comment.

Irish Independent

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