Burton expects statement from Coffey on driver appointment

Minister of State appointed director of Irish Water as his ministerial driver

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said she had never before heard of a minister appointing as a driver a person who was a director of a semi-state company for which the minister had responsibility. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said she had never before heard of a minister appointing as a driver a person who was a director of a semi-state company for which the minister had responsibility. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

 

The Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has said she expects Minister of State Paudie Coffey will “very soon” address the issue of having appointed a director of Irish Water as his ministerial driver.

Talking to reporters in Dublin, she said she had never before heard of a minister appointing as a driver a person who was a director of a semi-state company for which the minister had responsibility.

“But this is a matter for the Minister to address in due course.” Asked to comment on calls that the director, former Fine Gael councillor in Waterford Hilary Quinlan, should resign from the board of Irish Water, Ms Burton said it was a matter for Mr Coffey. “I expect him to address it very soon.”

The Irish Times reported today that Mr Coffey, Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and a Fine Gael TD for Waterford, had appointed Mr Quinlan as his driver, a position that pays €665 a week, after Mr Coffey was appointed a junior minister earlier this year. Mr Quinlan was appointed a director of Irish Water in November 2013. That position pays €15,000 a year.

Today Fergus O’Dowd, who was junior minister for the environment until he was dropped in the summer reshuffle, said Mr Quinlan should stand down from Irish Water because he is no longer a county councillor.

Ms Burton said she did not know Mr Quinlan and that the appointment of drivers was a matter for each minister, but she was “certainly surprised to see some of the comments attributed to the particular individual”.

In his comments to this newspaper, Mr Quinlan said he was working temporarily for Mr Coffey and also had other business interests. He later said he was unemployed. He said he did not see any conflict between being Mr Coffey’s driver and being a director of Irish Water.

He said he was appointed to the board of Irish Water because he was president of the county and city councillors association at the time. “But that’s not to say there aren’t Fine Gael positions and Labour positions.”

“You tell me one party out there who doesn’t look after their own. I don’t see anything wrong with it. It’s politics.”

Ms Burton said she had no knowledge of any deal whereby Fine Gael and Labour would split board appointments two to one.

She said it was following a conversation she had with Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday morning, that it was agreed Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin would bring a memo to Cabinet today on the issue of appointments to State boards.

This had long been a matter that the Labour Party had wanted clarity on, she said. She said State boards were a very important part of the economy and it could be difficult to find directors with the right skill sets.