Thursday 12 December 2019

Tanaiste Joan Burton's political record under attack as she faces no confidence motion

Niall O'Connor

TÁNAISTE Joan Burton's political record has come under attack following her decision to use a little known rule to appoint former trade unionist David Begg as chairman of the Pensions Authority.

A motion of no confidence by the Dáil's technical group was tabled in the Dáil this evening.

Former ICTU general secretary David Begg, who has been appointed as chairman of the Pensions Authority. Photo: Tom Burke
Former ICTU general secretary David Begg, who has been appointed as chairman of the Pensions Authority. Photo: Tom Burke

Ms Burton is expected to comfortably survive the motion - which has been countered by a motion of confidence by the Government.

Ms Burton was flanked by three Labour Ministers - Jan O’Sullivan, Alex White and Ged Nash - as she came under attack for appointing Mr Begg to the €20,520-per-year role.

The controversy erupted last week after it emerged she waived the normal  public appointments procedure, instead using a clause in the guidelines which allows her to personally offer the post to the former ICTU chief.

Kicking off the debate on behalf of the Technical Group, Waterford TD John Halligan strongly criticised Mr Begg’s claim that his €20,520-a-year State board job is “not exactly a crock of gold”.

“What an appalling insult. I could fill this chamber 100 times over with pensioners, people on validity, people with disabilities, low paid workers and the unemployed, all of those earning less than 20k per year,” Mr Halligan.

I’m tired and I’m a little bit worn down meeting people in hopeless situations with no money, no food,” he added.

The focus of the debate, which will conclude tonight, quickly onto Ms Burton’s record as Social Protection Minister.

Dublin Bay North TD Finian McGrath highlighted an RTÉ programme this week which detailed the hardship facing homeless families in Dublin.

“Where is the social protection for those children? Where is the support and care for those families?” Mr McGrath said.

“I challenge them tonight. We are talking about transparency and we are talking about cronyism. Our people out in the broader society, they deserve better,” he added.

Kildare North TD Catherine Murphy, a former member of the Labour Party, said she is “sorry” that she feels she has been left with no option but to vote in favour of the technical group motion.

“Just before general elections, there is a rush to appoint me, sometimes they are suitable, sometimes they are not suitable,” Ms Murphy said.

“The system is bypassed for someone perceived to be an insider,” she added.

Earlier, Labour Party deputy leader and Environment Minister Alan Kelly accused Technical Group TD Shane Ross and his colleagues of trying to satisfy their own agendas.

“I mean , this individual, this deputy, had no problem saying Seanie Fitzpatrick should be put in charge as chairman of the Central Bank and now he has a problem with David Begg being appointed to this position. This is just absolutely ridiculous,” Mr Kelly said.

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