Western Development Commission changes appointment system

Sinn Fein TD Pádraig MacLochlainn says appointments “smack of cronyism”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, in response to Mr MacLochlainn’s question over the Western Development Commission, said “we are in a new space in which they all must apply under the Public Appointments Service”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, in response to Mr MacLochlainn’s question over the Western Development Commission, said “we are in a new space in which they all must apply under the Public Appointments Service”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

 

Appointments to the Western Development Commission (WDC) will be handled in future by the Public Appointments Service (PAS), the Department of the Environment has said.

The department was responding to criticism of the Commission’s current board by Donegal North-East Sinn Féin TD Pádraig MacLochlainn.

Speaking in the Dáil earlier this week, Mr MacLochlain asked the Taoiseach Enda Kenny to have a “specific look” at the fact that three of the nine WDC board members are former Fine Gael councillors, while one was a “failed Labour Party election candidate”.

“Another member may also be a member of the Taoiseach’s party,” Mr MacLochlainn said, speaking on the Order of Business on Tuesday.

“That gives a majority of board members who are former councillors, candidates or party members,”he said.

Asked by Mr MacLochlainn if he would “examine the issue”, Mr Kenny responded: “I will. The deputy was not present when I answered this question earlier..albeit not about the Western Development Commission. We are in a new space in which they all must apply under the Public Appointments Service.”

“They are vetted and accredited independently entirely by the Public Appointments Service and I am glad that this is the position,”Mr Kenny said, adding that he hoped “those members who are serving on the board of the Western Development Commission are doing a really good job”.

“I believe that these appointments smack of cronyism even more so than that uncovered by the John McNulty affair and I believe the Taoiseach must review these appointments”, Mr MacLochlainn maintained in a statement on Wednesday.

“If we are ever to restore confidence in state sponsored boards across all sectors, including charities in receipt of subsidies from Government and donations from the public then these appointments of political cronies must stop,”he said.

A Government spokesman said that the appointments were a matter for the Minister for the Environment, but will now be an issue for the PAS when any future vacancies arise.

The WDC was established in 1997 to promote the economic and social development of the seven western counties of Donegal,Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare.

Its work was supported by the Council for the West, which was formed as a voluntary organisation after western bishops held a conference in 1991 to highlight serious challenges in the region.

The 2009 McCarthy report on public expenditure, known as “An Bord Snip Nua”, had recommended that all indigenous enterprise functions , including those carried out by the WDC, should be merged into Enterprise Ireland, but the commission in turn warned that there was a very real danger that national cuts would have a “disproportionate effect in rural areas”.