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Tuesday 20 March 2018

Udaras top dogs rake in expenses as 721 jobs go

FF-dominated quango is turning into 'rotten borough', says FG TD


Board members and senior management at Irish-language quango Udaras na Gaeltachta were paid €174,000 in expenses last year, despite the net loss of 721 gaeltacht jobs, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Since 2005, this group has been paid €2.5m in expenses and allowances in total.

The excessive payout in expenses is coupled with the revelation that 22 of the top management at Udaras are paid in excess of €107,000 a year (principal officer grade), according to new figures obtained by this newspaper.

Udaras CEO Padraig O hAolain is paid a salary of €159,000.

The revelations of high salaries and generous expenses bills at a time of net loss of jobs have been criticised by the opposition. Fine Gael described Udaras as an expensive "Fianna Fail talking shop".

Udaras na Gaeltachta has an annual budget of about €30m. The Udaras board meets monthly and members also attend regional and sub-committee meetings.

According to the figures obtained, chairman Liam O Cuinneagain has been paid more than €155,000 in fees and expenses since 2005.

Fianna Fail board member Daithi Alcorn earned nearly €120,000 between 2005 and 2009.

He was followed by fellow Fianna Fail member Tadhg O Cuinn on €117,000 (expenses of €58,000); Brian O Domhnaill on €115,000 (expenses of €56,000); Cathal Seoighe, an independent member, with €114,000 (€55,000 expenses); and Fine Gael's Padraig O Dochartaigh got €105,000 (€55,000 expenses).

Mr O Cuinneagain insisted yesterday there was nothing irregular about the €2.5m payment since 2005. "There is no wastage. Our members have to travel."

Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs Pat Carey confirmed last month that elections to the Udaras, which were due to take place this year, are to be delayed. He also admitted he had re-appointed three members to the board, including the chairman, until April 2013.

Since its inception, Fianna Fail has maintained a political stranglehold on the Udaras board.

In 2005, it won nine of the 17 available seats, with the remainder going to a scattering of FG, SF, independent and PD candidates.

The final two members of the board were appointed by the government of the day.

Responding to our queries, Mr O hAolain said that a new 20-year strategy "will form an important part of the restructuring process" of Udaras.

He also said all salaries were determined within the structures and guidelines agreed with the Department of Finance.

On the net loss of jobs he said: "The net loss in 2009 was about 8.8 per cent of the total, and about 90 per cent of those losses occurred as a result of companies shedding staff in order to cut costs rather than as a result of a company closure. The figures mirror the situation nationally for 2009."

Fine Gael's Michael Ring claimed that after losing control of local councils and town councils, Fianna Fail was terrified of suffering yet another humiliating defeat.

"They are turning Udaras into a rotten borough because they know that, like the English-speaking people and the rest of the nationalities in the country, Irish speakers are fed up of the rule of Fianna Fail,'' he said.

Sunday Independent

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