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Fisheries agency now the subject of three inquiries amid claims of irregularities

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Senator Seán Kyne raised a number of issues about Inland Fisheries Ireland. Photo: Tom Burke

Senator Seán Kyne raised a number of issues about Inland Fisheries Ireland. Photo: Tom Burke

Senator Seán Kyne raised a number of issues about Inland Fisheries Ireland. Photo: Tom Burke

A senior staff member has been suspended at Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), which is now the subject of three inquiries into alleged irregularities.

Two board members resigned earlier this month as Environment Minister Eamon Ryan appointed barrister Conleth Bradley to conduct a review.

The day before, a series of concerns about financial and other irregularities at the agency were aired in the Seanad by senator Seán Kyne.

It has now emerged that the issues raised by Mr Kyne are separate to those being examined by Mr Bradley.

The issues aired by Mr Kyne were flagged by an internal audit. They were brought to the board’s attention and details were passed to the Comptroller and Auditor General for examination.

The Department of the Environment said the matters Mr Bradley will examine are related solely to the conduct of the board.

Those matters that led to the suspension of the staff member are being investigated separately by an external consultant brought in by IFI.

The suspension, resignations and investigations are taking their toll on the 400 employees and morale is said to be low.

IFI is the state agency in charge of managing the country’s inland and coastal fisheries, a remit that includes 74,000km of rivers, 128,000 hectares of lakes and coastal seas out to 12km from shore.

Problems came to public attention when Mr Kyne called for Mr Ryan to come to the Seanad to explain what was going on at IFI.

Among the issues he raised were agency vehicles in use without insurance, including one subsequently involved in a crash; inappropriate use of grants and an informal leasing arrangement allowing a staff member to use an agency property as a guesthouse.

Mr Ryan confirmed the next day that he had appointed Mr Bradley to conduct a review, but his department clarified over the weekend that this was in relation to separate issues.

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However, the department spokesperson would not give specific details of the review.

“Terms of reference are not being released at this time,” they said.

“The department can confirm that the review relates to issues raised in correspondence between IFI and the department during a specific period earlier this year.

“The review, carried out under Section 18 of the Inland Fisheries Ireland Act 2010, does not relate to issues raised in recent media reports, all of which are being or have been separately addressed.”

Section 18 of the act relates to ministerial powers to remove members of the board.

In relation to the suspension, the spokesperson said: “The minister is aware that a staff member of IFI has been suspended pending an independent investigation into a number of matters that were the subject of disclosures.

“In the interests of fair and independent due process, no further comment will be made on this specific investigation. It is important to note that this investigation is entirely within the remit of IFI, and neither the department nor the minister have any role.”

IFI declined to answer specific questions, but issued a statement in reply.

“IFI does not comment on matters relating to employees. Nor does IFI comment on any ongoing investigations, as to do so may prejudice the outcome,” it said.


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