Friday 23 March 2018

Kenny gets 37 applications for junior minister posts

FG backbenchers' anger at €2.5m extra funding for Alliance

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Reuters
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Reuters

Kevin Doyle and Caroline Crawford

Fine Gael backbenchers are set to object to a commitment in the Programme for Government that could see the Independent Alliance receive an extra €2.5m in State funding over the next five years.

During the negotiations with the Alliance, Enda Kenny promised to review the way political parties are funded, with a view to giving more support to groups of Independents.

Because the Alliance is not registered as a political party, its members are only entitled to an individual leaders' allowance of €37,037 each year.

However, the Programme for Government states: "We will seek to extend state funding, on the same basis on which political parties are funded, to political groups who stood on a common policy platform in the General Election."

This could see Transport Minister Shane Ross's group receive €64,368 for each of its six TDs, plus extra funding of €207,000 every year on the basis of the group's election performance. They will also be eligible for another fixed sum of nearly €127,000 a year.

However, the revelation has been met with anger on the Fine Gael backbenchers and is set to be raised at a meeting of the party's TDs this week, the Irish Independent has learned.

Senator Catherine Noone, Deputy Maria Bailey, and Chief Whip, Regina Doherty at the Fine Gael Party meeting yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers
Senator Catherine Noone, Deputy Maria Bailey, and Chief Whip, Regina Doherty at the Fine Gael Party meeting yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers

A number of TDs said they saw the move as deeply cynical and not one that the Fine Gael negotiating team should have conceded to.

"If they (Independents) want to organise themselves as a party, then they should register as a party like everybody else," said one TD.

"They want it both ways. They don't want to abandon the moral high ground they get from not being in 'party politics' but they want the money anyway."

Meanwhile, Enda Kenny has received 37 applications for junior minister posts and 70 expressions of interest from those eager to be among the 11 Seanad nominees he will choose.

Mr Kenny revealed the strong interest in posts to party members at the Fine Gael National Consultative Conference yesterday. He is due to travel to Washington tomorrow and his spokesperson indicated it could be the end of the week before he announces his junior ministers.

It is already known that Galway East TD Sean Canney and Waterford Independent John Halligan are to get portfolios.

Four outgoing junior ministers, Michael Ring, Damien English, Dara Murphy and Joe McHugh, are expected to be retained but may switch jobs.

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy and Helen McEntee are hotly tipped for promotion as Mr Kenny needs a gender balance, while other names in the mix include Martin Heydon, John Paul Phelan, John Deasy, Patrick O'Donovan, Pat Breen, David Stanton, Jim Daly, Pat Deering and Andrew Doyle.

Over 500 TDs, councillors and local organisers attended the conference, where members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Programme for Government.

After the meeting, Mr Kenny described the mood as "very upbeat". He said people gave "an overwhelming endorsement" to the programme but acknowledged there had been some criticism, particularly about the party's structure in some areas of the country.

Irish Independent

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