Wednesday 13 December 2017

Healy-Rae's removal shows Burton means business

Fionnan Sheahan

JOAN BURTON'S aides said it was "coincidental" that Michael Healy-Rae was removed from the board of a state quango following the Ring of Kerry controversy.

It's quite the coincidence, too, that the revelations about €2,600 worth of phone calls being made to a reality TV show emerged from the past just as the Independent TD was locked in battle with a minister.

The Social Welfare Minister politely asked the Kerry South TD to resign his position on the Citizens' Information Board.

When Healy-Rae dug his heels in and refused to resign from the board, Ms Burton upped the ante. She threatened to use the law to kick him off.

Healy-Rae still didn't get the hint. Burton followed through and sacked him from the board.

Of course, Healy-Rae has the option of going to court to challenge the minister's interpretation of the law.

After the pasting he received in the past week, it wouldn't be a wise move.

Burton has got her scalp. The minister bided her time and had her argument well prepared.

Healy-Rae had another three years left in his term on the existing board. But the minister maintained his membership was a conflict of interest because, as a TD, he can also vote on measures which might have an effect on the CIB's work.

Healy-Rae's membership of the board "compromises the effective performance" of it and she also considered it "inappropriate for a board member to be in receipt of remuneration" for being on it as well as getting paid as a TD.

"In view of this, I will now consider termination of the deputy's membership of the board invoking the provisions of the Comhairle Act 2000," she said last month.

A section of the legislation governing the CIB allowed the minister to remove the TD.

The act states: "A member of the board may at any time be removed from membership of the board by the minister if . . . his or her removal appears to the minister to be necessary for the effective performance by the board of its functions."

Burton has now changed the law so sitting politicians will be banned in future from being members of a board.

Healy-Rae was a councillor when he was appointed to the board by then minister Mary Hanafin in 2009.

The Irish Independent revealed how Healy-Rae's father, Jackie, was given three state board positions to hand out as part of the deal to support Fianna Fail in the last government.

Healy-Rae denied his appointment was part of any deal and insisted he wouldn't give the position up now he has assumed his father's Dail seat.

It was coincidental the son of an Independent TD supporting a fragile government was appointed to a state board.

Coincidentally he was removed this weekend just after he was embroiled in a furore.

Unlike Cabinet colleagues who have huffed and puffed, Burton took care of business.

Irish Independent

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