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Saturday 7 December 2019

Healy-Rae paid €20,000 despite poor attendance

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

FORMER Independent TD Jackie Healy-Rae sat through fewer than half the meetings of an Oireachtas committee he received €20,000 a year to chair.

The former Kerry South TD, who was appointed to the role by the last government, got up and left during 25pc of the meetings of the committee tasked with dealing with social welfare, leaving the vice-chairman, Charlie O'Connor, to oversee the meetings.

Mr Healy-Rae absented himself entirely from a further 25pc of meetings, despite a convention that chairmen appointed by the Government should fully chair all meetings.

Junior Health Minister Roisin Shortall -- who was an influential member of the committee during the last Dail -- told the Irish Independent she raised the issue at the time, and criticised Mr Healy-Rae for his shabby attendance record.

Mr Healy-Rae was the only Independent TD appointed by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern as a committee chairman.

The appointment was part of the deal hammered out by Mr Healy-Rae in return for his support for the Fianna Fail-Green Party coalition. As well as the joint committees, which are attended by TDs and senators, Mr Healy-Rae also had to chair select committee meetings.

A tally of the committee records compiled by the Irish Independent reveals that it sat 52 times between November 2007 and late 2010. Of the 52 meetings, Mr Healy-Rae chaired 25 fully, left 13 early and failed to turn up to a further 14.

It started out as the committee on social and family affairs, and changed its name to social protection after then-Taoiseach Brian Cowen rebranded government departments in March 2009.

Mr Healy-Rae's attendance at the select committees, which scrutinise legislation, was much better.

Ms Shortall, a Labour TD for Dublin North-West, said Mr Healy-Rae was not providing taxpayers with value for the €20,000 he was getting from the public purse for his role on the committees.


Although TDs now get €10,000 on top of their basic salary of about €90,000 for chairing a committee, the allowance was just over €20,000 when Mr Healy-Rae was appointed to the position.

At the time, vice-chairmen were also paid. Payments to chairmen were halved and those to vice-chairmen abolished in 2009 budget cuts.

"Most of the meetings he did chair, he left quickly," Ms Shortall said. "There was always some excuse I found hard to believe. It was hard to believe you were getting value for money."

Former Fine Gael Cavan-Monaghan TD Seymour Crawford, also a member of the committee, said he was "very disappointed" with Mr Healy-Rae's attendance.

"The fact was, he was getting €20,000 a year and it was not good enough," he said.

"Charlie O'Connor did an excellent job in his absence."

Another source criticised Mr Healy-Rae's performance, saying, "everything he said at the meetings was taken from a script" and that the clerk of the committee regularly told him what to do.

Mr Healy-Rae did not return calls last night.

Irish Independent

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