David Begg: ‘If the Government wants to reconsider my appointment, I have no problem with it’
Former ICTU General Secretary David Begg has said he would have “no problem” if the Government or the Oireachtas Committee want to reconsider his appointment to the Pensions Board.
In an interview on Morning Ireland today, David Begg said: “I have no problem if the Government want to rethink the situation.
"I won’t stand in the way of that. I have to appear in front of the Oireachtas Committee at the end of the month and if they have reservations about my appointment, I will acknowledge that.
“I will not force my way into the job. It is not a job I would have applied for if I saw it in the paper, but I am honoured to have been asked.
“If they want to get someone else for the job, there will be no offence taken by me.”
Yesterday it emerged that the Tánaiste Joan Burton personally approached former trade union boss David Begg to offer him a €20,520-a-year job on a State board, the Irish Independent has learned.
Mr Begg never sought the position as chairman of the Pension Authority and says he is unlikely to have ever applied for such a role. However, he defended his decision to accept it after being sought out by Ms Burton, adding: "It's not exactly a crock of gold associated with it."
Ms Burton came under fire within her own party yesterday for bypassing the normal process which is run through the Public Appointment Service.
The Labour Party leader used a little-known clause to decide that Mr Begg, who retired as general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) last year, was "evidentially and objectively highly qualified" for the job.
Waterford TD Ciara Conway infuriated some senior party figures after she publicly stated that she believed Ms Burton had broken the rules. "Even as someone in Government, even as someone in my own party, why set a rule and then break it?" said Ms Conway.
Last night, Labour parliamentary party chairman Jack Wall said he would facilitate a discussion on Ms Burton's decision at next week's meeting of the parliamentary party.
"We don't take comments made by people such as Ciara Conway willy nilly," he said.
Dublin Mid West TD Robert Dowds said he believed these sort of appointments required complete transparency.
"I have sympathy with what Ciara said. The more transparency and openness in relation to the process, the better," he said.
Clare TD Michael McNamara said it was clear Mr Begg was highly qualified, adding: "I don't know why the application didn't go through the appropriate channels."
Mr Begg (63) has not yet received a formal letter of appointment but last night he was listed on the Pension Authority website as its chairman.
He told the Irish Independent he did not seek out the job. He was approached by Ms Burton six weeks ago.
"I wasn't looking for a job. I'm working for TASC and in with Barnardos. I didn't seek it out," Mr Begg said. Asked about the accusations of cronyism now facing Ms Burton, he replied: "Obviously that occurred to me. I asked about that."
He said the legislation that allowed for his appointment was passed through the Oireachtas last year.
"Surely the thing to do would have been to challenge the legislation in the Oireachtas," he said. "People want to have a go at me. I suppose I've set myself up for that with the things I've done over the years. I'm the guy in the middle of it," he added.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the appointment undermined the body politic. "Joan Burton's decision to bypass the public appointments process and award a plum job to David Begg in the twilight of her party's term in Government is a timely reminder to voters that political cronyism is alive and kicking in the Labour party," Ms McDonald said.
A spokesman for Ms Burton said Mr Begg would prove "invaluable in identifying strategic opportunities as well as developing solutions to the complex challenges currently facing the pensions sector".
He will sit on the board with just two other people, an official from the Department of Social Protection and an official from the Department of Finance.