SF questions appointment of former NAGP lobbyist to ethics watchdog

Government nominating former Fianna Fáil senator Geraldine Feeney to Sipo

 Geraldine Feeney at the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children in 2010. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Geraldine Feeney at the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children in 2010. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Sinn Féin has questioned the appointment of a former Fianna Fáil senator to the State’s ethics watchdog, who the Dáil was told became a professional lobbyist.

Two positions on the six-member Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo), vacant since February, are to be filled. One must be filled by a former member of the Oireachtas.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty highlighted the Government’s proposal to appoint Geraldine Feeney, a senator from 2002 until 2011, to the commission who subsequently became a lobbyist for the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP).

Mr Doherty said Sipo would have to adjudicate on a complaint against Tánaiste Leo Varadkar over his releasing a confidential document agreed with the Irish Medical Organisation to the president of the NAGP.

The Donegal TD asked if it was appropriate to appoint Ms Feeney, who had only ever lobbied for the NAGP, when Sipo had to deal with the complaint against Mr Varadkar involving the GP group.

And he questioned the appropriateness of the motion coming before the Dáil without debate.

Mr Varadkar said the Government, on the advice of Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath, is nominating Ms Feeney to Sipo.

The Tánaiste who was unaware that the former senator had lobbied for the GP group, said the idea of having a former politician on the commission “is to have somebody who has a working understanding the work we do as politicians”.

Former Fine Gael TD Jim O’Keeffe had previously been a member of Sipo “and it is now proposed to be Geraldine Feeney.

“Obviously, whether there is a debate on it would be a matter for the Business Committee rather than for me.”