An Post appointment delayed by election aftermath

Government under pressure to conclude hiring of new chair

Christoph Mueller tendered his resignation from the board of An Post to the Government last May. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Christoph Mueller tendered his resignation from the board of An Post to the Government last May. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

 

The Government is coming under pressure to conclude the appointment of a new chairman at An Post after an abrupt, last-minute halt to the process when the Dáil was dissolved for the general election.

Minister for Communications Alex White received Cabinet approval in December for the nomination of businessman Dermot Divilly for the chairmanship, a development which came seven months after former Aer Lingus chief Christoph Mueller resigned from the board of the State mails company.

Mr Divilly was nominated after a competitive selection process advertised on the stateboards.ie website.

Under new oversight rules for the semi-State sector, however, his appointment cannot go ahead until he is ratified by an Oireachtas committee.

No clarity

Amid political stalemate in the Dáil, there is no clarity as to when the appointment might proceed.

An Post, whose business is under strain due to declining mail volumes, is understood to have privately expressed concern about the situation to Government figures as several matters require attention.

Mr Mueller tendered his resignation to the Government last May when his appointment as chief of Malaysia Airlines was brought forward.

While he did not formally leave the An Post board until November 30th, the organisation has now been without a permanent chairman for almost 11 months.

“An Post’s chairman designate Dermot Divilly is currently fulfilling his duties in that role,” said a company spokesman.

“In the absence of the formal ratification of the chairman our articles of association allow for meetings of the board of An Post to be chaired by a member of the board.

“The business of the company continues as normal. Formal ratification of the chairman is a matter for Government.”

The company, whose 2015 annual report is to be published on April 28th, has previously indicated that its core operation is a “loss-making cycle” and that the reduction in volumes is now well-established in the business.

Mr Divilly was in Leinster House on the morning of February 3rd for a public meeting with the Oireachtas committee on communications but the engagement was cancelled when Taoiseach Enda Kenny called the election.

Waiting outside

The committee was already in private session at that time in preparation for the meeting with Mr Divilly, who was waiting outside .

Before Mr Divilly was called into the meeting room, however, committee members observed Mr Kenny’s statement on the dissolution of the Dáil on Oireachtas TV system.

Committee chairman John O’Mahony, then a Fine Gael TD, concluded on foot of advice of from the Houses of the Oireachtas that the meeting could not continue as Mr Kenny was already on his way to Áras an Uachtaráin.

The lack of agreement on the next government in the wake of the election has stalled the selection of new Oireactas committees, delaying the An Post appointment as a result.

It remains unclear whether the Government would take steps – in view of the company’s situation – to finalise the process without reference to the Oireachtas committee.

-While any such move would be in breach of the Government’s own procedures, the committee oversight rules are not set out in statute.