Monday 18 December 2017

Bruton stands over Hogan's decision to appoint 'coalition cronies'

Fine Gael's Phil Hogan, left, and Richard Bruton
Fine Gael's Phil Hogan, left, and Richard Bruton
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

JOBS Minister Richard Bruton has strongly defended the appointment of five 'Coalition cronies' to State boards in the past week by his colleague Phil Hogan.

Mr Bruton said that sometimes political cronies are best placed to fill the prestigious posts, because of a lack of suitable people coming forward.

Mr Hogan, who is expected to be leaving the Department of the Environment in the coming days, has appointed seven former local councillors – five from Fine Gael and two from Labour – to State boards in recent weeks.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Bruton defended the appointments, saying that political allegiance should not be a disqualifier from being considered.

Mr Burton said the positions are and should be advertised but sometimes there isn't the required expertise from those who apply.

He added that being a member of a political party is not sufficient grounds to preclude people from consideration.

"I don't think any political allegiance should ever be a disqualification.

"What I do is we advertise all of our posts and not always do you get suitable people coming from the public advertisements," he said.

However, when in opposition, leading Fine Gael figures including Leo Varadkar were severely critical of Fianna Fail appointments of people with political affiliations to the party to State boards.

Fine Gael, in its 2011 manifesto under a heading of 'Cleaning up State Boards', said that it would be asking the directors of State boards to resign within six months, with all subsequent appointments of directors and CEOs subject to approval by a Dail committee.

That commitment was watered down significantly in the Programme for Government.

And in the last week alone, Mr Hogan has appointed three former councillors to the board of the National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC) and a further two to the Western Development Commission (WDC).

The three appointed to the NOAC were Michael 'Spike' Nolan a former Fine Gael councillor from Kildare, former Labour Dublin City Councillor Henry Upton, and former Offaly Fine Gael Councillor Constance Hannify.

The first two both lost their seats at the recent elections while Ms Hanniffy did not contest the recent election.

Eugene Lavin, a former Fine Councillor and former Mayo Football goalkeeper, and Gerard Mullaney, a former Fine Gael County Councillor from Sligo were appointed to the WDC, which brings with it fee payments of up to €5,985 a year.

Two weeks ago, the Irish Independent revealed that Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte had appointed two Coalition cronies to a State board.

Mr Rabbitte came under fire for appointing Labour Party by-election candidate Denis Leonard and former Fine Gael TD John Farrelly to the board of Bord na Mona.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny defended the appointments.

He said the individuals involved brought a "wealth of experience" to the table.

Then last weekend, the Irish Independent reported that Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan, who is also facing being the axe from Cabinet, appointed former Labour Councillor Jane Dillon Byrne to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA).

Finance Minister Michael Noonan also defended the appointment of Mari Hurley, a longtime Fine Gael activist, to the board of NAMA, even though the appointment was not made via a public appointments process.

Mr Noonan said that he had done nothing wrong in appointing Ms Hurley to NAMA, adding that she had significant experience in finance at both a senior management and board level.

Irish Independent

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