A SENIOR counsel has been appointed to investigate claims of serious irregularities at Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).
Environment Minister Eamon Ryan ordered a review of the organisation after complaints about the management of finances and staff.
Among the complaints is that a fleet of 16 uninsured company vehicles were on the road, including one that was involved in a crash.
Another issue concerns inappropriate use of money from the Dormant Accounts Fund and a claim that an allocation was made to an angling club that did not exist.
It is also claimed that a Victorian country house in Co Mayo, Aasleagh Lodge, owned by IFI, was leased to a staff member for use as a guest house on a local arrangement with no transparency over the transaction or financial accounts.
The issues were raised in the Seanad by Fine Gael senator Seán Kyne who said there were also “other matters” of concern.
Two members of the IFI board have resigned – chairman Fintan Gorman and Seamus Boland.
An internal staff communication said Mr Boland was leaving due to work commitments. Mr Boland is also chief executive of Irish Rural Link.
The message credited Mr Gorman with overseeing a period of significant change for the organisation. Both men were thanked for their work.
A further message informed staff that the board and management had been notified of the independent review.
It said the chief executive and senior management team would not be in a position to discuss the matter while the review was going on.
There was no reply to phone messages left with chief executive Francis O’Donnell and Mr Boland. Mr Gorman was not reachable for comment.
The Department of the Environment provided a statement confirming that concerns had been raised with it.
“A number of matters have been the subject of recent correspondence between the Department and IFI,” it said.
“On foot of this correspondence, the Minister, being of the opinion that the functions of Inland Fisheries Ireland are not being performed in an effective manner, has appointed a senior counsel to conduct a review under Section 18(3) of the Inland Fisheries Act 2010.
“Until that review has concluded and a report received, it would be inappropriate to provide any further comment.”
IFI is the state agency in charge of overall management of the country’s inland and coastal fisheries.
It has responsibilities for scientific research, conservation programmes, angler licensing and policing of 74,000km of rivers and streams, 128,000 hectares of lakes and coastal fisheries out to 12 miles from shore.
It has more than 300 staff and up to 400 at peak times.
Senator Kyne told the Seanad he understood there may be more resignations from the board and he urged the Minister to appear before the house to answer questions.
“IFI is a central body. Centralising it was not the right move. There is now a dissociation between central management and the work needed on the ground,” he said.
“I ask that the Minister be asked to come to the House to discuss all matters angling as he initiates a review of the governance or accountability of the board.”