Monday 15 October 2018

Humiliation for Gormley over posts

Senan Molony Deputy Political Editor

ENVIRONMENT Minister John Gormley was forced into a humiliating Dail statement yesterday over two illegal appointments to a State board.

Mr Gormley's explanation for appointing two councillors to the Private Residential Tenancies Board was described as "deeply embarrassing" after it emerged that local authority members are barred from serving. The blunder invalidated 120 decisions of the board -- which has since had to sit again in order to re-ratify its verdicts in disputed cases.

The two appointees, nominated to the board last June, are a Green and a Fianna Failer. Dessie Larkin is from Donegal, while Vincent Martin, a barrister, represents Mr Gormley's own party in Monaghan.

The legislation establishing the board is categorical, however, that no member of the Oireachtas or any local authority may be appointed.

There were unruly scenes in the Dail yesterday when the fiasco was taken up by Opposition politicians. Labour leader Eamon Gilmore declared: "These were utterly improper appointments."

Taking the Order of Business, Health Minister Mary Harney admitted: "In regard to the appointments made in June, they are prohibited under section 169 of the relevant Act and were, therefore, ultra vires.

"That matter was brought to the attention of the minister recently," she said.

The minister was not advised of the fact at the time of the appointments, she said.

Labour TD Ciaran Lynch was threatened with expulsion from the chamber as he persisted in raising the issue.

He claimed later that "John Gormley's appetite for appointing advisers and handlers is legendary.

"We know he has a team of six people for his constituency office, four special advisers in his departmental office and three staff for his press office, at an annual cost to the taxpayer of almost €800,000."

But Mr Gormley shot back: "I will take no lecture on cronyism. Your party has brought it to a fine art."

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