Public Appointments Service drops the ball in the Aaron Forde fiasco
Cantillon: Mystery that Forde’s social media posts were not spotted during recruitment process
Aaron Forde’s appointment was cancelled after it emerged he had previously tweeted disparaging comments about members of the Government and had used ethnic slurs about members of the Traveller community. Photograph: Keith Arkins
One of the daftest aspects of Tuesday’s cancellation of the appointment of former Ornua chairman Aaron Forde as the chair of Shannon Group is that such a high-profile State appointment could go through a rigorous scrutiny process without someone checking his social media history.
Forde, a heavyweight executive who also ran Aurivo for 16 years, was appointed as Shannon chairman by Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan on Tuesday afternoon. By that evening, his appointment had been cancelled after it emerged he had previously tweeted disparaging comments about members of the Government and had also used ethnic slurs about members of the Traveller community.
Leaving aside for a moment the fact that it is not acceptable in any context to use such slurs, it is a complete mystery why someone as experienced as Forde would not think to scrub his social media history clean before applying for a high profile State post. He will regret this for the rest of his career.
But it is an even bigger mystery that something so blatantly disqualifying for a State role was not spotted during the recruitment process. It is beyond sloppy.
Ryan, who has a habit of putting his foot in things, will rightly cop all the political flak. He has an army of advisers – reportedly nine of them in various capacities – who should surely have spotted this landmine between them. Yet the minister might also be forgiven if he finds himself wondering what the Public Appointments Service (PAS) was playing at throughout this disaster.
PAS is supposed to be a filter, a vetting service, for public roles. Where was the vetting in this case? Forde was one of three candidates put forward by PAS for a final choice to be made by the minister and his department, the Dáil was told on Wednesday.
If the vetting service isn’t even doing the most cursory of personal background checks on candidates that it is puts in front of Government, then what is the point of PAS at all?