Senator complains to ethics body over 'orgy of personal publicity'

 

The Ethics in Public Office Commission is to be asked to lay down guidelines to ensure Ministers do not use Government advertisements to boost their personal election prospects.

The Fine Gael leader in the Seanad, Senator Maurice Manning, is to ask the new commission, chaired by Mr Justice Matthew P. Smith, to rule on the issue following what the Senator describes as "an orgy of personal self publicity at the taxpayers' expense".

Senator Manning's complaint to the commission concerns a series of advertisements from the Department of Social Welfare which have prominently featured the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs, Mr Ahern.

These advertisements, detailing the budget welfare increases, have run extensively on radio, television and in newspapers. "It would be na∩ve to think this was aimed at anything other than electioneering", Senator Manning maintained yesterday.

"This is funded by the taxpayer, yet there is no public interest served. The message could be conveyed just as well without Ministerial presence, but doing it this way confers an unfair advantage on Dermot Ahern with regard to his opposition, especially in his Louth constituency."

He said he would be referring the matter to the ethics commission early in the new year.

"I will be asking the commission to examine the whole question in the context of fairness and the use of public funds. I will be asking for a definitive ruling and the laying down of guidelines," said Senator Manning.

"It is implicit in the legislation that there is an imperative for fair play and even-handedness. I want to see that made explicit," he said.