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Kim Bielenberg: It’s time to end the cronyism in Leinster House

It is high time that we rid Leinster House of its pungent whiff of cronyism.

As the Irish Independent has revealed, Andrew McGuinness, son of the chairman of the Dail’s spending watchdog, claimed over €30,000 in overtime payments in one year from the taxpayer when he was working for his father.

Mr McGuinness claimed the money when his father John was a junior minister, on top of a salary of €42,000.

He was working as the then minister’s personal secretary.

The news will stick in the craw of ordinary workers as they struggle to get by during the recession.

This is particularly so when Mr McGuinness senior is in charge of keeping an eye on how money is spent as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

Nobody is disputing that young Mr McGuinness worked the overtime hours concerned, but the figure of €30,000 does seem remarkably high when the basic salary was €42,000.

Many ordinary workers in the private sector put in extra hours in their jobs with little or no reward, and can only dream of such high payments. But sadly, they are not so well connected.

It is not only the high figure that is troubling. The revelation will also focus attention on the blatant nepotism that still goes on in Leinster House.

Mr McGuinness worked for his father during the previous Fianna Fail administration.  Given Fianna Fail’s reputation for jobbery there is nothing surprising about that.

One might have hoped that the practise of appointing wives, sons, daughters and siblings to publicly-paid jobs would have ended with arrival of a new administration.

Such hopes were naively optimistic. The Fine Gael-Labour coalition still gives jobs to the boys and girls with alarming enthusiasm.

This paper revealed recently that the government parties had at least 15 family members on the payroll.

Soon after entering government, Minister Kathleen Lynch hired her husband as personal assistant, while Junior Education Minister Ciaran Cannon retained his wife.

Spouses, siblings and children are still routinely hired by TDs from all the main parties.

We are all in favour of strong family values, but TDs and senators should now be forced to open up taxpayer-funded jobs to ordinary members of the public rather than doling them out to their families willy-nilly.


Online Editors