Monday 18 December 2017

Kenny bombards his ministers with requests from constituents

Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has sent hundreds of representations on behalf of constituents to government departments during his first year in office, despite an election pledge to concentrate on issues of national importance.

Among the more bizarre representations was official correspondence sent to the Department of Transport, Sport and Tourism on behalf of a constituent enquiring about the availability of tickets for the Gymnastic Finals at the London 2012 Olympics.

When he was appointed, Mr Kenny promised the electorate that a Fine Gael government would move away from 'parish pump' politics and focus instead on bringing Ireland back from the economic abyss that had been brought on by the collapse of the property boom.

In February of last year he said: "If this becomes a reality, ministers will concentrate completely, to the exclusion of other works, on the national responsibilities of their portfolios. Their constituencies, I'm quite sure, will be happy to accommodate them."

Despite this, a Sunday Independent investigation has found that Mr Kenny has spent his first 15 months as leader sending an endless stream of correspondence to his government colleagues on behalf of his constituents.

Mr Kenny made no less than 145 representations to the Department of Education on a variety of issues ranging from third-level education grants to funding for school projects in Mayo.

The Department of Foreign Affairs received 184 representations from Mr Kenny's private and constituency office -- primarily in relation to passport applications.

He also sent 57 representations to the Department of the Environment, mostly about the household charge and septic-tank registration fees.

The Department of Social Protection proposed to charge €5,500 to retrieve all representations made by Mr Kenny under the Freedom of Information Act -- with one official saying the accumulated paperwork could amount to between 500 and 600 documents.

In one month last year, The Department of Social Protection dealt with nine representations from Mr Kenny's constituency and private office regarding the Back to Education Allowance, Carers' Allowance and the JobBridge scheme.

In a brief show of transparency, the Taoiseach's office initially agreed to supply the Sunday Independent with a figure for how many representations Mr Kenny's constituency office made on behalf of his local electorate.

However, on Friday, press officer Andrew Payne said: "We have a draft copy with an approximate figure, but it's with Feargal Purcell (government press secretary), who is flying back from Brussels, so we won't have it to you until tomorrow morning."

However, the following morning, after Mr Purcell had had time to read the draft response, it was decided that no figures would be provided.

Mr Payne said: "I'm sorry about this but we won't be sending you the figure. It was decided that because it didn't come under the Freedom of Information Act we won't be supplying a figure."

Last week, it was revealed that Mr Kenny had attended 142 launches and openings in his native Mayo while supposedly concentrating on the task of putting the country's finances in order.

However, with Ireland's sovereignty surrendered to the troika following the IMF/EU/ECB bailout, Mr Kenny has had time to concentrate on more pressing constituency issues -- such as educational grants or Olympics tickets.

He wrote to the Minister of State for Sports and Tourism -- another Mayo Fine Gael TD Michael Ring -- in January on behalf of a constituent who hoped to attend the gymnastic finals at the London 2012 Olympics.

Mr Kenny said: "I am enclosing correspondence I received from (redacted), regarding her wish to secure tickets for herself and her daughter for the gymnastic finals at the 2012 Olympics in London. I would be grateful if you could offer advice or assistance in this matter."

Mr Ring suggested that Mr Kenny should write directly to the Olympic Council of Ireland president Pat Hickey.

The Irish Independent has previously revealed how Mr Kenny used his office to request funding for 32 school projects in his constituency during his first year in office.

In November, Mr Kenny's constituency office wrote to the Department of Social Protection, enquiring as to why someone was having "difficulties" with the Back to Education Allowance.

Joan Burton's office responded: "A deciding officer disallowed (name redacted) application on the grounds that he holds a qualification of an equivalent or higher level."

Mr Kenny's constituency office also enquired as to why a woman was not entitled to rent supplement.

The department responded by telling Mr Kenny that his constituent had been excluded from receiving the rent supplement because she was in full-time education.

Sunday Independent

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