Dáil told Shane Ross tried to have ‘crony’ appointed to board

Arthur Spring makes claim as Burton criticised during confidence motion debate

Independent TD Shane Ross sought the appointment of a "crony'' to a State board in the lifetime of the current Dáil, Labour TD Arthur Spring has claimed.

He challenged Mr Ross to put the name of the person on the Dáil record.

“If you don’t, by tomorrow morning I will put it on the record of the House,’’ he added.

He said Mr Ross had just seen “your own bomb blow up in your own face’’.

Speaking later, Mr Ross said he had frequently made suggestions about who should be on State bodies and who should not be.

“I have been asked frequently, because I have been such a critic of the cronyism that is going on, for new names, new suggestions, other people, new developments, and I have done it,’’ he added.

“And I am not ashamed of it, but I am not going to name them all here tonight at the whim of Mr Spring.’’

Bypass

He said he did not wish anybody he had suggested to bypass any process.

Mr Spring made his claim during the resumed debate on a motion of no confidence in Tánaiste Joan Burton, which was tabled by the Independent Alliance, of which Mr Ross is a member. A Government amendement expressing confidence in Ms Burton was tabled and passed by 81 votes to 32.

The debate followed her appointment of David Begg, a former general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, as chairman of the Pensions Authority.

Mr Spring said Mr Begg had never done anything wrong by the State and by the people. “Unlike some others who have destroyed pensions in this country, he is a man of integrity,’’ he added.

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin accused the Independent Alliace of "petty political point-scoring'', with Mr Ross the "arch-typical hurler on the ditch''.

He accused Mr Ross of being “the original advocate of reckless capitalism, the banker’s friend now masquerading as the people’s champion’’.

Mr Howlin said it was not surprising that Mr Ross had chosen to be table the motion. But he was surprised he was joined by Independent TDs John Halligan and Finian McGrath who, he thought, did not share Mr Ross's hostility to organised labour.

He said the two TDs liked to posture on the left until their new political allies called them out.

“There are many things that could be debate on this slot tonight, important issues,’’ he added. “This is not one of them.’’

Transparent

Mr Howlin said the Tánaiste was part of a Government which had put in place a transparent appointment system for the State which would last for generations.

Sinn Féin TD Aengus O Snodaigh said the Government was "guilty as sin'' on the appointment and other matters in the eyes of the public.

The Tánaiste, he said, had bypassed the selection process for public appointments to State boards, which she had lauded in the past, in the dying days of the Government.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald asked if the Tánaiste was out of touch with reality.

“Were there other candidates for this position and what do they feel about it?,’’ she asked.

She said they might have been more humble, less out of touch, and would have considered the salary of €20,000 a sizeable sum of money.

Fine Gael TD Áine Collins said Ms Burton had protected basic social welfare payments and was now improving them.

She said she should be commended for appointing a person of the calibre and experience of Mr Begg.

Independent TD Joan Collins said Mr Begg should stand down.

Independent TD Clare Daly said Labour was brazen to defend the appointment.

She said she had no confidence in any member of the Government and would not single out the Tanaiste. She added Mr Begg’s appointment was “disappointing and indefensible’’, given his record.

Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae said Ms Burton was “a hypocrite of the worst type’’.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times