Saturday 20 October 2018

Seanad prize for minister's man

A LONG-term supporter of Finance Minister Brian Cowen has got a plum Seanad job worth €111,000 a year.

Senator Pat Moylan, from Banagher in Co Offaly, was at the centre of an intense battle to secure the chair of the Upper House.

At a meeting of Fianna Fail senators yesterday, he secured 15 votes which put him well ahead of Senator Jim Walsh of Wexford (5 votes), Senator Terry Leyden, from Roscommon (4 votes) and Senator Ann Ormonde of Dublin (3 votes).

The job is one of the most prized in the parliamentary party and carries great prestige as, among other duties, the office holder becomes a member of the Council of State, which acts as an advisory body to the president.

Mr Moylan will also become a member of the presidential commission, which can assume the powers of the president if she is ill or absent.

Mr Moylan acknowledged that the support of Mr Cowen had helped him to get what he described as an "excellent endorsement" from his Fianna Fail colleagues. He said he had been very close to Mr Cowen's late father Ber, who was the first to welcome him on to Offaly County Council when he became a member in 1976.

"I was about 24 or 25 then and he showed me the ropes and gave me tremendous direction."

When Ber Cowen died suddenly in 1984, Mr Moylan rejected calls from his supporters to contest the Laois-Offaly by-election and opted to support the late TD's son instead.

"I could see the tremendous budding potential in Brian. I called it at that stage that he was the best prospect of a minister in Offaly and I was proved right eventually."

Mr Moylan said he did not wish to comment further out of respect for the new Seanad, which is due to confirm him in the position when it meets for the first time at 2.30pm today.

The result is a disappointment for Senator Ann Ormonde, who was beaten by one vote for the job in each of the past two election years.

It is expected Fine Gael senator Paddy Burke will keep his Leas Cathaoirleach job, which carries a salary of €90,745. Former TD Donie Cassidy will be Leader of the House for a third time, getting a salary of €85,531.

Hot tips for leaders of their respective party groups in the Upper House are former TD Frances Fitzgerald (Fine Gael), new member Alex White (Labour) and long-serving senator Joe O'Toole (independents).

The longest serving senator, Shane Ross (independent), is expected to take the chair for the start of proceedings.

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