I am against cronyism, but not that sort -- Enda

PLEDGE: I was talking about Bertie, not TDs' families, says Taoiseach

Michael Lavery

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny says his pledge to end cronyism referred to Fianna Fail State board appointments -- and not to his party's TDs hiring family members for jobs paid for by the taxpayer.

The Taoiseach waded into the cronyism controversy when he said it was "not good practice" for TDs or minister to hire family members in their staff.

It was revealed this week that two Fine Gael junior ministers hired two family members each in their departmental staff and that 25 TDs had relatives working for them.

The two Fine Gael ministers, Training and Skills Minister Ciaran Cannon and junior agriculture minister Shane McEntee have both defended their appointments, saying their family members were the best people for the job. Even though Cabinet ministers were advised not to hire family members, no such recommendation was made for junior ministers and Mr Kenny said the junior appointments "did not have to be approved by Government".

"I've made a point of saying that it's not good practice to appoint family members," Mr Kenny said at the National Library in Dublin yesterday.

"But I have to say these are personal appointments, they are not Government appointments, they don't have to be approved by Government.

"I, myself, have been very careful over the years to demonstrate that a public job is a public job. But personal appointments are personal appointments and I can't make final decisions in that regard."

The Taoiseach also said his pledges to stamp out cronyism referred to State-board appointments and referred to former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who said he appointed people to State boards because they were his friends.

"What I did in respect of cronyism arose out of a question to the previous Taoiseach about appointments to State boards," Mr Kenny said.

The Government would advertise State board positions, and candidates would have to appear before Oireachtas committees.

But the final say on who gets appointed still rests with the minister in charge, the Taoiseach added.

Ministers and TDs who have hired family members include Mr Cannon who has appointed his wife Niamh Lawless as his personal secretary -- the job carries a salary of between €23,000 and €49,000.