Environment Minister Eamon Ryan appointed an active member of the Green Party to the board of a key climate advisory body without an open competition, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
Andrew Murphy, who previously served on the Green Party’s executive committee, only ended his membership when Mr Ryan appointed him to the €10,000-a-year role on the board of the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) last March.
Mr Murphy is the third appointment by Mr Ryan with links to either him or the Green Party. The opposition has claimed the appointments of Mr Ryan’s former adviser Professor Morgan Bazilian and former Green election candidate Dr Cara Augustenborg without an open competition last month amounted to “cronyism”.
The legislation underpinning the CCAC gives the minister discretion to make appointments in consultation with department officials. However, an Oireachtas committee recommended last year that the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act should have included an open, competitive and transparent process before the minister chooses a board appointee.
In March, Mr Ryan appointed Mr Murphy, a director at the Brussels-based sustainable transport NGO Transport and Environment, to the CCAC, the State’s independent advisory body on climate action.
Mr Murphy confirmed he only left the Green Party when he was appointed. He served on its executive committee between 2008 and 2010 and was involved in talks to renegotiate the Fianna Fáil-Green programme for government in 2009 when Mr Ryan was communications minister. “It has been many years since I last voted in an Irish election, probably 2014,” Mr Murphy said.
Members of the CCAC board are paid €9,800 a year as well as travel and subsistence in line with public service rates.
Mr Ryan’s spokesperson defended Mr Murphy’s appointment, saying: “Given their life-long passion for environmentalism, it is hardly surprising that a small number of the CCAC’s members may, at some point in their careers, have had some involvement with the Green Party.
“It is disappointing to hear some members of the opposition questioning the appointments process given that they voted overwhelmingly in favour of the legislation which underpins it just a few months ago.
“As Minister Ryan pointed out, the council’s members were appointed exactly as is set out in the legislation and in the exact same way as the previous Climate Change Advisory Council was established.
“Mr Murphy is clearly qualified for this position. He is a director at Transport and Environment, a Brussels-based sustainable transport NGO that is focused on reducing the impact on the environment from international transport and aviation.
“He was an observer to the 2015 Paris climate conference and previously worked in the European Parliament and the European Commission.”
Speaking in the Dáíl last week, Mr Ryan faced down accusations of “cronyism” from Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty, who drew parallels with the ill-fated and short-lived appointment of former minister Katherine Zappone as a UN envoy.
Mr Ryan said the council was appointed after going through “all the proper government procedures, going to the Cabinet, giving advance notice, discussing with colleagues”.
“Not everyone has the specific skills of the individuals you mentioned, who bring real expertise to the council that I don’t believe would have been available elsewhere,” the Dublin Bay South TD added.
He acknowledged he knew a number of people on the council, but argued that if he were to exclude people he has “known or worked with in the past 30 years, it would diminish the council”.