The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment has hired a director of Irish Water – the semi-State company his department oversees – as his personal driver, The Irish Times has learned.
The appointment of Hilary Quinlan, then a Fine Gael councillor in Waterford, to the board of Irish Water in November 2013 was approved by Phil Hogan, then minister for the environment, and Pat Rabbitte, then minister for communications. Mr Quinlan is paid a €15,000 annual fee for the position.
Mr Quinlan lost his Waterford city seat in the local elections last May and has since been hired as a ministerial driver by Paudie Coffey, the junior minister at the Department of the Environment, a job which pays €665 a week. He is also entitled to a €57,757 gratuity payment after losing his seat.
Mr Coffey is a Fine Gael TD for Waterford and was promoted to the junior ministerial ranks in the reshuffle last July.
The Department of the Environment is responsible for Irish Water, and Mr Coffey is one of two ministers in the department, alongside Labour's Alan Kelly, the senior Minister.
While the Department of the Environment said Mr Quinlan’s position is usually coterminous with Mr Coffey’s term, Mr Quinlan himself said he was working temporarily for Mr Coffey and also had other business interests to attend to, but later said he is unemployed. Asked if he is paid for his driving, Mr Quinlan responded: “I don’t think there is anyone working for free at the moment.”
Ministers of State are entitled to hire two full-time drivers on a week-on, week-off basis.
Mr Quinlan said he doesn't see any conflict between driving for Mr Coffey and his position with Irish Water. "I was appointed [to Irish Water] because I was president of the county and city councillors association. But that's not to say there aren't Fine Gael positions and Labour positions."
Mr Quinlan added: “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.” He asked why there isn’t more of a focus on the economy. “We were all nearly eating out of bins three years ago.”