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FF's €62m to keep the partners sweet

MORE than €62m of taxpayers' money was paid to social partners by Fianna Fail ministers and their departments over the past decade, a Sunday Independent investigation has revealed.

Fine Gael's deputy finance spokesman Brian Hayes last night described the revelations as a "damning indictment" of Fianna Fail's social partnership deal, of which new leader Micheal Martin was a central figure.

According to documents obtained by this newspaper, a seemingly bottomless pit of taxpayers' money was paid over to unions, local authority organisations and lobby groups -- all in the interest of industrial peace. As a result of our investigation, we found:

  • In total, more than €62.7m was paid to social partners in the past decade.
  • The Department of Environment, under Noel Dempsey and Martin Cullen, paid out €37.7m between 2000 and 2004 in order to "prevent industrial unrest at local government level".
  • €6.5m was paid out to health social partners in 2004 when the new FF leader Micheal Martin was Health Minister.
  • While Enterprise Minister between 2004-2007, Mr Martin oversaw payments of more than €5.7m.
  • "Missing invoices" were sought from Siptu over an unaccounted €200,000.

Mr Hayes said the figures reveal a "gravy train or slush fund par excellence".

In response, a Siptu spokesman confirmed yesterday the union received money for two purposes.

"Firstly, money was given to support industrial engineering, to support productivity and to subsidise shop steward training," he said.

The matter regarding the missing invoices is currently subject to an internal investigation by Siptu.

The ICTU said all of the funds received were legitimate and it rejected Mr Hayes' comments. A spokesman said it was ironic that Fine Gael used such terms, as is also in receipt of taxpayers' money.

Sunday Independent