Saturday 25 November 2017

No regrets for Higgins over handing state post to friend

Cormac McQuinn and Michael Brennan

LABOUR candidate Michael D Higgins said last night that he had no regrets about the appointment of one of his friends to a key state post during his time in government.

He faced a storm of criticism in the Dail in the mid-1990s about his appointment of 'Hot Press' editor Niall Stokes as chairman of the Independent Radio and Television Commission (IRTC).

Mr Stokes had been named as one of the organisers of a race night fundraiser for Mr Higgins, which raised £1,635 (€2,076) in 1996.

Mr Higgins stood over his decision to appoint Mr Stokes to the IRTC, which led to a Dail motion calling on him to resign as minister at the time.

"I have no regrets about the appointment of Niall Stokes to the IRTC. Mr Stokes served with distinction as a member of the commission and made a valuable contribution in that role," he said.

Mr Stokes opened an art exhibition this month for Mr Higgins in Galway Shopping Centre -- with the aim of raising funds for his presidential campaign.

Fellow Labour Party junior minister Pat Rabbitte strongly defended Mr Higgins at the time but also said that Mr Stokes "was wrong to lend his name to even a once-off low-key fundraising event for his friend".

Mr Higgins was asked by the Irish Independent yesterday if he planned to appoint Mr Stokes to his Council of State -- the body that advises the president -- if he was elected.

"I have made no such decision with regard to appointments to the Council of State," he said.

Irish Independent

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