State board appointments to become fairer, says Brendan Howlin

Government ‘dropped the ball’ in some instances, says Labour Senator John Whelan

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin: changes ‘more than merely cosmetic’. Photograph: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin: changes ‘more than merely cosmetic’. Photograph: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

 

The Government had introduced more reform in the past three years in appointment procedures for State boards than was achieved in the past 90 years, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin told the Seanad.

“In future, while Ministers will retain the legal authority to make the actual appointments, such appointments will be drawn from a list of qualified candidates selected on foot of a transparent and fair process administered by the Public Appointments Service,’’ he said.

Mr Howlin said there would be a review of the new process within 18 months to assess whether it was truly effective.

He assured the House the changes were “more than merely cosmetic’’, adding they represented clear and substantial progress on the Government’s reform agenda.

Senator Thomas Byrne of Fianna Fáil claimed Fine Gael and Labour had appointed, on a two-to-one ratio, friends, cronies, supporters, ex-councillors and relatives to State boards. “We see similar things happening in the judiciary,’’ he said.

Labour Senator John Whelan said the system in the past was a joke. If there were two people in a race for one appointment, all other things being equal, the Fianna Fáil person got the job, he said.

Mr Whelan said the Government had “dropped the ball’’ in making appointments to State boards.

There had been cases where people were appointed who clearly had no clue about the responsibilities of the position and did not have the skill set, qualifications or acumen to serve effectively and in the community interest to serve on the boards, he added.

Independent Senator Feargal Quinn said he had some doubt about the proposal that everything should be advertised and open.