Thursday 23 November 2017

Independents and FF battle to chair Dail watchdog

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

FIANNA Fail will have to beg Taoiseach Enda Kenny for his support to ensure it gets to chair the Dail's spending watchdog.

The party is locked in a battle for the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee with Independent TD Shane Ross. He is the nominee of the group of 16 Independent TDs.

They do not want to see Fianna Fail chairing the committee, given the party's role in the economic crash.

The Government is suggesting that Fianna Fail should seek the support of Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore if it cannot reach agreement with the Independent TDs on who should chair the watchdog.

The Coalition has nine TDs on the 13-member committee, so it will be able to vote in either Senator Ross or Fianna Fail's nominee, John McGuinness, if the two sides cannot agree.

It will not nominate one of its own Fine Gael or Labour members as chair because this would be seen as impacting on the watchdog's independence.

Fianna Fail chief whip Sean O Fearghail said his party leader Micheal Martin would not be begging Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore for their support.

"Will Micheal Martin be going on bended knee to anyone on this? Certainly not. If he's having discussions, it'll be on the basis of pointing out what the tradition has been," he said.

But last night, the Government remained insistent that it would not be following the tradition of simply awarding the chair of the influential committee to the largest opposition party -- which is Fianna Fail.

Labour chief whip Emmet Stagg said it would be up to Fianna Fail and the Independents to lobby Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore for their support.

"There are nine Government TDs and four from the opposition on the committee. The Government TDs will have to select on our advice," he said.

The last Public Accounts Committee was praised for its investigations of wasteful spending in FAS and other state bodies.

Mr Ross said it would be absurd to put a Fianna Fail member in charge of a committee which would be investigating the "vast waste" of public money when it was in charge.

"It's a bit like putting a fox in charge of the chicken coop," he told RTE.

But Mr O Fearghail said Mr McGuinness was the perfect choice to chair the committee because he was not a 'yes man'.

"John McGuinness was scathingly critical of Fianna Fail in government.

"I doubt that being chairman of the Public Accounts Committee will in any way limit his ability to criticise us into the future," he said.

Irish Independent

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