Dáil debates

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Confidence in Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

 

The following motion was moved by Deputy John Halligan on Tuesday, 19 January 2016:

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

- (Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection)

4:50 pm

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Measaim go bhfuil sé tráthúil agus ceart go bhfuilimid ag plé an rúin mímhuiníne seo anois díreach roimh an toghchán agus tacaím leis an rún. Níor ardaíodh an cheist seo i dtaobh ábaltacht David Begg an obair a bhí roimhe a chomhlíonadh - measaim gur féidir leis é a chomhlíonadh - ach de bharr an bealach inar roghnaíodh é. Níos mó ná sin, ardaíonn muid é de bharr an bealach a chaith an Tánaiste le cosmhuintir na hÉireann ó tháinig sí i réim i 2011. Creidim gur mór an náire í do thraidisiún lách a lán dóibh siúd a chuaigh roimpi i bPáirtí an Lucht Oibre, iad siúd a sheas an fód do lucht oibre thar na cianta.

Last night, I listened to the Tánaiste’s defence to the charge that she was guilty of the very cronyism about which she and others in her party had railed against Fianna Fáil so often in the past. Tonight, the Labour Party Members may win the support of the jury of peers in here. However, in the eyes of the public, they are guilty as sin on this, as well as other matters which the Tánaiste has tried to deny responsibility for since coming into power as she did again last night. To use a ministerial secret clause to bypass the very selection process-----

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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Secretly published.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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-----for public appointments to State boards, which the Minister opposite introduced to prevent friends, retiring Deputies and the likes from being wheeled on to State boards in the dying days of a government-----

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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Under which category does David Begg fall?

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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This is the very cronyism of which the Labour Party and the Minister opposite has accused others.

Hopefully, David Begg, a good man by all accounts, is not tainted by the hypocrisy of the party opposite. He may have the required experience for the job in question; I do not know him that well. If he had so much experience, why did the Tánaiste not encourage him to put his name forward, like the other mere mortals, into the hat of the State appointments procedure? Instead, a slíbhín method was used to appoint him, thus dragging him into the quagmire and controversy of the Tánaiste's making.

That same mechanism was also used to bypass the system when appointing Ita Mangan last June to the Citizens Information Board, another well-respected and well-capable woman. I believe she will be a good woman in that position. The problem, however, is that once again a process set up and lauded by everyone as a major step forward was bypassed. Again, she would have more than likely come out on top if she had gone through the process but she was not encouraged or required to. This is not the first time the Tánaiste ignored her own promises. In her arrogance, she is willing to bend the rules when it suits her. One only has to look at the 25% hike above the salary cap set for special advisers to Ministers. The pay packet of her special adviser, Edward Brophy, was set at €120,000, 25% above the cap.

Last night in her speech, the Tánaiste continued with the fairytale to perpetuate the lie that she and this Government protected the core social welfare rates.

The Minister and her party cut child benefit, jobseeker's allowance, jobseeker's benefit, pensions, the household benefits package, maternity benefit and the respite care grant. Also, whatever lone parents had and whatever the Tánaiste had against them, she has stripped them bare. She cut the fuel allowance, the back to school allowance, the footwear grant and the bereavement grant. How can she stand over a statement that she protected core rates of pay? It is time for her to go and this is why I am supporting this motion.

5:00 pm

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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Under the Tánaiste's watch, women, children, the poor, the vulnerable and low paid workers have taken cut after cut and suffered blow after blow as she has implemented time after time, measure after measure, cuts that can only be considered as being anti-woman, anti-child and poverty creating. This Government in its time in office made eight separate cuts in payments to lone parent families. More than 10,000 of them had their weekly payments cut by as much as €87 per week. In addition, thousands of struggling parents saw their incomes fall as inadequate child care provision caused further hardship and additional expense. Add to that a homeless crisis and the emigration of our young and talented citizens, but the Tánaiste looked after those who really mattered to her, the elite, the high income earners, those who were well cushioned against her austerity policies - recovery, in other words, for those who least needed it. Now in the last dying days of this failed Government she engages in the same old tired parish pump style politics worthy of Tammany Hall, spreading the largesse among her pals, her last hurrah, looking after the Labour Party's own golden circle while looking over her shoulder at an election coming at her like an out of control steam train.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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How outrageous.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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Now like a deer caught in the headlights she attempts to pull out of the Labour Party hat political gimmicks and ludicrous and uncosted populist promises, as she tries so hard to curry favour in the hope that people will forget the injury she and her Government has caused them by an endless litany of austerity policies.

It is insulting to suggest, as the Tánaiste claims, that she and she alone should be the arbiter of who is qualified or not for a public position. If David Begg is so eminently qualified, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, he is a very experienced man, why did he not go through the standard, transparent appointment process? Why did the Tánaiste feel in this case that it was necessary to circumvent it? The inference suggests that David Begg is not qualified for the position that he has been granted. The clear inference is also that this is merely a grubby display of cronyism, unworthy of any Tánaiste and unfair to David Begg. Of course, this is not a one off because the Labour Party has form in this regard. The Labour Party will clearly breach its own rules when it suits it. It really is a case of "do as I say, not as I do". The Labour Party, in particular, is clearly saying one thing and doing another. The Tánaiste pays her head of staff an annual salary of €144,424; that is almost €52,000 above the pay cap for special advisers. That is the pay cap set by the Tánaiste and the Government but it did not prevent her from breaching it because that is what she and the Labour Party do.

The Tánaiste's response to this latest outrageous display of abject cronyism is pretty much her usual response, one of breathtaking arrogance and dismissal of her critics in an almost dilettante fashion. Is the Tánaiste really so out of touch with reality that she thinks this latest episode was an acceptable way of doing business? Were there other candidates for this position with the Pensions Authority? What do they feel about it? Were they any less qualified? Perhaps they would have been more humble and less out of touch and would have considered €20,000 a sizable sum of money. It is not only about the income involved. Whatever is said does not mitigate against the simple fact that what the Tánaiste did was just plain wrong. It sends out every wrong signal about politicians and public life and it goes against every sentiment expressed today during the debate on the Public Sector Standards Bill, but what does the Tánaiste care so long as she cares for her circle and her cronies? There is an election coming up and she hopes against hope that the people will have short memories.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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The next group of speakers includes Deputy Arthur Spring, the Minister, Deputy Brendan Howlin, Deputy Joe O'Reilly, the Minister of State, Deputy Ged Nash, Deputy Michael McNamara and Deputy Áine Collins. I call Deputy Authur Spring.

Photo of Arthur SpringArthur Spring (Kerry North-West Limerick, Labour)
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First, I would like to say I am glad about the appointment of David Begg to the position on the Pensions Authority for he is a man of great stature, he has done great service for the country, and he is a man to whom the Labour Party would adhere, as would any decent person who would seek to see trade unions represented and any person who would seek to see people's pensions protected. He has never done anything wrong by the State or by the people and he is a man around whom we would all put credit. Unlike some others who have destroyed pensions in this county, he is a man of integrity.

It would be incredible if we were to say that a member of the Independent Alliance had sought the nomination of one their cronies to a State board. It would be even more incredible should Deputy Ross have sought the promotion of one of his cronies to a State board, and it is truly remarkable that I can stand before the House tonight and say Deputy Ross sought the appointment of one of his cronies to a State board during his tenure in this House. I put it to the Deputy that he has to name that person to the House tonight and report it and if he does not, by tomorrow morning, I will put it on the record of the House. I put it to him, in his parlance, that he has just been hoisted by his own petard or, to put it in pain language, which is what we like to speak in Kerry, he has just seen his own bomb blow up in his own face.

Many things have been said about Members of this House and many good people have been appointed to positions who have done good things by this State. As parliamentarians, it is incumbent upon us to do the best thing by the people. A procedure has been put in place, which I welcome, and there is a clause in it which allows the appointment of David Begg, which I also welcome. One of the key points in that respect is the fact that women will be more represented on State boards than ever before. It is incredible that the two leading parliamentary Opposition parties, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, have only one female parliamentarian seeking re-election. We have always done the right thing by the female population, by 52% of the people of the country, and our leader will do something to make it equitable. In speaking about things being equitable and about equities, some people's character could be described as rakish in terms of what they have done in the past. They have marched people to the top of the hill and have asked people to pay into public meetings in order for them to talk about how great their objection is to the state the country. This is all factual information.

I put it to the House that in the event that the Independent Alliance did not know about this before tonight, an explanation should be given or they should seek to have a policy document, if they ever had one, around such matters as political reform. I find it comical at times when I hear stuntmen that one would find in Fossett's Circus taking about health and education, yet there is no document to back any of it up. We have done, and will continue to do, the right thing by the people. I do not believe any member of the public service would think there is something wrong with David Begg being appointed and nor would any member of the objective press media who give an equal amount of coverage to all Members of the House, and not to some Members who get an extraordinary amount of coverage in RTE and in the Sunday newspapers and do not pay for it; as a matter of fact, au contraire, they get paid for it. There is an awful lot wrong with tonight's debate.

We did some prelegislative scrutiny in the past few months and there are measures I would like to see implemented in this House in the dying last days of this Government, which I would like to see re-elected. According to the polls, the people want to see this Government re-elected as well; they have not exactly gone in behind us just yet, but 30% of the population has yet to make up its mind. No damage will be done to the Labour Party tonight. I think the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and any member of the public service who is following these proceedings will say that the right man has been appointed for the job for the right reasons. It is not for price nor patronage that anybody has made this appointment.

I would like Deputy Ross to provide clarification on what I have told him before the end of the night. I have verifiable evidence on the matter. The Deputy must clear up the issue for the sake of his good name.

5:10 pm

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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One of the things I am proudest of in this term of office is that we put in place an appointment system for State boards. Those reforms previously received very little media coverage despite the transformation of a system that has been the subject of political controversy since I first entered politics.

There are now more than 4,600 people registered on a dedicated website, stateboards.ie, to receive notifications about vacancies on State boards. More than 300 appointments have been made using the process for the past 12 months. The system is administered by the Public Appointments Service, a body with an impeccable track record.

I am particularly pleased about one achievement. As far back as 1993 the then Government set a gender target of 40% in regard to State board appointments but that target has never been met. Under the new process, approximately 45% of appointments are now women and it is only a matter of a short time before the 45% target is actually met.

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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Only 30% of applications are from women, which is something I would like to have examined in the review of the system which will take place in the next few months. We are here tonight debating whether an eminent public figure, not a member of the party led by the Tánaiste, who is considering standing against the candidates of the Labour Party in the forthcoming Seanad election, and appointed in a manner that everybody has acknowledged is consistent with the specific, well-published guidelines - perhaps there are those in Sinn Féin who cannot read them but I circulated them, they are published and this clause was in it-----

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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I can read.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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Deputy McDonald's colleague said they were secret, so he obviously did not read them.

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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He thinks everything is secret.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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Perhaps the Deputy should have read the guidelines to him.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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He can read too.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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The appointment was made in a manner consistent with the guidelines.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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I thank the Minister for the condescension from the Labour Party.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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Please.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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The accusation is that the appointment of an eminent person, that nobody has said is not suitable for the post, who was appointed in accordance with the procedures, is an act of cronyism. It is the most bizarre charge of cronyism I have come across in all my time in politics.

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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When we designed this new system we knew that there would have to be exceptions. We set them out clearly for those who are worker directors and those in NewERA companies, among others. Following the publication of the guidelines not a single Member of this House, nor the commentariat, raised any concern about the clause.

Mr. Begg's skill-set is well known. He is respected by all sides of this House. He has served Governments of all hues and he has served them well. He was leader of a movement that has served this country well, particularly in recent years. He has been dealing with pensions all his life, from the perspective of individual pension holders, not from the perspective of the industry. He is an experienced board member in both the private and public sectors.

That would appear to be the kind of skill-set and experience decried by Deputy Ross. Never having taken the responsibility of running anything himself perhaps he simply does not understand what is required. Mr. Begg's appointment has been welcomed by IBEC, a group that he has undoubtedly tussled with on more than one occasion.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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Oh my God.

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin North, United Left)
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That is another clue.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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It is a generous thing for IBEC to have done, as it too has been subject to abuse from the quarter responsible for this pantomime tonight, but I suspect those involved in IBEC know the importance of making progress on the crucial issue of pensions is more important than petty political point scoring. Yet that is precisely the calling card of the main mover of this motion tonight.

Deputy Ross is the archetypal hurler on the ditch. He is quintessentially a man of the system who pretends to rail against it. He is the original advocate of reckless capitalism. He is the bankers' friend who is now masquerading as the people's champion. He is a man whose membership of the media community is essential to his chameleon persona. That Deputy Ross has chosen to table this motion is not surprising. However, I confess I am a little surprised that he is joined by Deputies Halligan and Finian McGrath whom I did not think shared Deputy Ross's hostility to organised labour. There are men who like to posture on the left but whose new political allies call them out.

There are many things that could be debated in this slot tonight - important issues - but this is not one of them. The Tánaiste is part of a Government that has put in place a transparent appointments system for this State that will last for generations. It was a brave and wise decision that will change that system for ever. The charge of cronyism would appear to hang on a phrase used by the Tánaiste that Mr. Begg assisted our party in the process of another breakthrough decision by this Government to legislate for collective bargaining rights. That is what trade unionists do. Or one could ask whether it is more basic that the appointment of a trade union figure is to be portrayed as a Labour appointment per sealthough Congress, the body of which Mr. Begg served as general secretary, is in no way affiliated to the Labour Party and contains both affiliated and unaffiliated unions. There are trade unionists who vote for all parties in this House and none. When others were appointed to positions in the past this charge was never made against them. Had any of my Fine Gael counterparts made this appointment, or a Minister of any other party, we would not be having this debate. That is the plain truth of the matter.

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, has just set out very clearly how the Government has dismantled the traditional appointment system to State boards, made it fair and open and took it away from being the preserve of political patronage and the traditional inner circle. He set out the situation lucidly and I do not propose to repeat those points.

In his remarks to Deputy Ross, Deputy Spring reminded me of the great biblical exhortation to let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Those two speeches have fulfilled their purpose. What I propose to do in this motion of confidence in the Tánaiste is to look at her extraordinary record in the face of the worst recession in the history of this State in maintaining a welfare system, a fair society-----

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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That is not true.

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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-----and the dignity of those in need.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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That is not true.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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Nobody interrupted Deputy McDonald.

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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Some points merit repetition. The core social welfare rates were maintained right through the recession. That is an achievement of the Tánaiste and the Government. Free travel was protected. The respite care grant has been fully restored to €1,700 and it was never less than approximately €1,400. Two weeks of paternity leave have been introduced. A modest but incremental increase has begun for the old age pension. Up to 75% of the Christmas bonus has been restored. Family income supplement has increased by €5 per week. The list goes on. The living alone allowance has been increased by €9 a week. School meals are of the utmost importance and an extra €3 million has been allocated for their provision. A second year of preschool care has been provided. One can see a complete package of welfare achievements by the Government in the midst of the deepest recession. That is the ultimate yardstick by which people with proper critical faculties will assess the performance of the Government and the role of the Tánaiste when they will look at the confidence motion tonight. There is no escaping those realities.

One of the great achievements of the Tánaiste in office and of the Government is that we have moved from a system whereby the traditional, paternalistic payment to jobseekers sentenced people to indefinite dependency to one where a support payment and a support system are provided through Intreo to support people to get from unemployment to work. Not only do we have the enormous record of creating in excess of 125,000 new jobs during our period in government and are currently creating approximately 1,000 a week, but we have the equally important achievement that those people who are now on jobseeker's benefit get a holistic approach and they are met by all the relevant agencies and given training, support and encouragement to get on programmes that lead to employment. All that is at a time when the minimum wage has been increased by the Government and the universal social charge has been reduced.

There has been a set of strategies to fix the public finances and change the situation when we came into office where we were spending approximately €50 billion to €51 billion a year and only bringing in €31 billion a year in income. We transformed the situation radically, corrected the public finances and put people in good employment, while at the same time maintaining the core social welfare system, core payments and supports.

There was nothing as radical, transformative or effective in bringing about social fairness and equality in our society as the introduction of the free second year of early childhood education. I live next door to a wonderful Montessori school and creche and see cars pulling up and people walking in with their buggies in the morning. The parents who come and drop their young children are from all social classes, income groups and parts of the village. They come to that centre and drop off their children who attend free for a very important part of the day. The period under the scheme will be increased to two years. That is the record of the Tánaiste. That is what is relevant and what will be assessed by people outside the House rather than cynical posturing inside it.

5:20 pm

Photo of Gerald NashGerald Nash (Louth, Labour)
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I will not dignify this contrived and shambolic attempt to occupy the moral high ground with a response of any great length. I was named yesterday by Deputy Finian McGrath as someone who had used a "get-out clause to make appointments". I want to make some points in reply to that charge.

They do not have a party Whip in Deputy Finian McGrath's new group, but the Independent Alliance should make some effort to agree to have a line. I am generally loath to betray the confidence of a conversation with a fellow Member of the Oireachtas, but I will make an exception in this case. Yesterday, around the time Deputy Finian McGrath was sharpening his crayon to frame a limp attack on me and the Tánaiste, his colleague in the Seanad, Senator Feargal Quinn, who has the misfortune of being chairman of the Independent Alliance, personally congratulated me on choosing Dr. Nael Bunni as the first chairman of the construction contracts adjudication panel. As the author of the original Construction Contracts Bill, the Senator naturally had a very keen interest in seeing his measure passed and implemented. I recall that he told me that he knew Dr. Bunni and that I could not have made a better choice to serve as chairman. The Senator has an advantage over me because prior to appointing him, I did not know Dr. Bunni at all. I make no apology for not waiting for a possible application and instead proactively head-hunting and approaching the individual whose CV and track record made him best suited to chair this new body. I prefer the Senator's sound judgment on the merits of my appointment to Deputy Finian McGrath's ignorant and churlish comments. He and his colleagues in the so-called Independent Alliance - the party that is not a party - really are the rebels without a clue.

I am happy to confirm that I adopted exactly the same approach when it came to seeking another chairman for another new body I established - the Low Pay Commission. A politician or political commentator would have to be woefully or perhaps wilfully misinformed to think Dr. Donal de Buitléir, chairman of the Low Pay Commission, is a crony of mine or of my party. That is just mischievous nonsense aimed at the gullible and the uninformed. What is important to know about Dr. de Buitléir is that he is a former senior civil servant, a former president of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland, a former chairman of the Foundation for Fiscal Studies, the former secretary to the Commission on Taxation and that he has served with distinction as a member of a number of review groups for successive Governments in the areas of local government reform, the integration of the tax and welfare systems, business regulation, health funding and higher education. I can think of no individual better qualified to take on the task of serving as midwife to this new body which has performed its tasks extremely well. It is composed of representatives from both sides of industry and independent experts in labour market economics and statistical analysis. Furthermore, I can confirm that the members of these bodies all came through the Public Appointments Service process. I strongly believe I was both entitled and obliged, as Minister of State, to make sure the best candidate would be available to serve as chairman. I approached Dr. de Buitléir directly and asked him to serve. In the language of the guidelines governing this process which the Deputies opposite seem reluctant to use I "independently identified a person who is evidently and objectively highly-qualified and capable of effectively discharging the role of chair".

The Independent Alliance's choice of subject matter for this Dáil debate does nothing more than highlight how little it has to state that is worth hearing. One can give Deputy Shane Ross great credit for a lot of things, but he has never let consistency stand in the way of his instinct for noisy populist guff. Consistency in his thinking is not an attribute we are entitled to expect from the man who constantly criticised the Bank of Ireland as a conservative establishment and asked why it could not be more like the get-up-and-go Irish Nationwide Building Society and the anti-establishment Anglo Irish Bank. He was the cheerleader for these banks and their chief executives, week after week in his Sunday column, as he breathlessly celebrated their enormous profits, at our expense as it turned out. This same man is also on record as calling Sean Quinn a genius, the champion of the customer, describing Quinn Direct as the most successful insurance business in Ireland and positively welcoming the massive Quinn share purchases in Anglo Irish Bank. The House does not need to be reminded that that particular farrago did not end well. It is just a pity that the national parliament has to devote time to dealing with such a false and trumped up charge from these publicity seeking, self-preening opinionisers whose only common platform is the need to have one.

Photo of Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara (Clare, Labour)
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I have listened with interest to the debate and the characterisation of the appointment process of Mr. David Begg as a secret clause when it was anything but. It was highly publicised how a chairman could be appointed. One might not necessarily agree with it, but it was highly publicised. There was nothing secret or untoward about it. By and large, the way people are appointed to State boards has been reformed by the Government, although perhaps not as much as I would like. Like most of the reforms carried out by the Government, they may seem huge to people who have been in the system for ten, 15 or 20 years but to others newer to the system, they seem less revolutionary, to put it mildly. It is interesting that nobody on any side of the House has suggested Mr. Begg is not qualified.

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin North, United Left)
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In one minute I will be saying he is not qualified.

Photo of Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara (Clare, Labour)
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The Deputy will be saying he is not qualified; I look forward to hearing it. Whether one agrees with the trade union movement, most people acknowledge that Mr. Begg has played a very substantial role in it. I think some of the Deputy's colleagues in the Technical Group would acknowledge that the trade union movement has been hugely beneficial to workers and the protection of their interests, including their pensions. With others, the Deputy has rightly criticised what happened to the Aer Lingus workers. That came about as a result of the actions of their own trustees and, I argue, inadequate oversight by the Pensions Authority. The approach was one of self-regulation, in other words, asking pension funds if they had enough. Everyone thinks that is fine. Have we not learned any lesson? The pension sector is in radical need of reform.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh suggested that if Mr. Begg was so qualified, it would have been better to ring him to ask him to apply. That sounds good and I initially thought it was not a bad idea. Is it sufficient to have the charade of reform without actually changing how the system works? Often in this country it is decided in advance who will get a position, yet it is advertised and people apply for it. Those advertising the position know who they want and why they want him or her. This is called head-hunting and it is done in the private sector. We think the processes in the public sector should mirror more closely the appointment processes in the private sector, yet when it happens, we take huge issue with it. If one is to head-hunt a person, one should telephone him or her to ask him or her to apply. If one does not want to go through the Public Appointments Service process and let it decide, one should at least be open and honest about it.

Photo of Arthur SpringArthur Spring (Kerry North-West Limerick, Labour)
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That was said in reply.

Photo of Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara (Clare, Labour)
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That is what happened in this instance. We talk a lot about political gimmicks, but the political gimmick is this motion of no confidence. Perhaps the Tánaiste might have done it another way, but that is not what we are debating. We are debating a motion of no confidence in her because of how she has run her Department. I will be quite happy to go through the voting lobbies and I am sure a walk-through vote will be called.

If Members are going to have the theatre of politics, then let them have it. There will be a walk-through vote. I am happy to walk through the lobbies on the Tánaiste's record of reform. If one goes back to the Beveridge report that came out immediately after the Second World War, its objective was to do away with the five great evils, namely, squalor, ignorance, want, disease and idleness. For a long time, the social welfare system in this country - the Twenty-six Counties, as Sinn Féin would refer to it - has been about buying off a group of people. It has not been about vindicating the right to work or about getting such people back to work, making them functioning members of society and protecting them when they do not have a job. It has been about buying them off and if Sinn Féin has learned one lesson from its so-called republican brothers who have governed in the South-----

5:30 pm

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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The Deputy's colleagues were in government then, allegedly buying people off.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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Quiet.

Photo of Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara (Clare, Labour)
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It is exactly that. It is how to buy off a group of people, put them on the scrap heap and not seek to vindicate their right to work.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Deputy.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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No, that is the Labour Party's record. Sinn Féin has not been in government. Did the Deputy miss that bit?

Photo of Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara (Clare, Labour)
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What the Tánaiste-----

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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Will the Deputy conclude please?

Photo of Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara (Clare, Labour)
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I will conclude. The Tánaiste has introduced a number of schemes that are about getting people back to work, including the Pathways to Work scheme and the back to work family dividend, to ensure there are no longer poverty traps that keep people dependent on social protection. In addition, she has introduced a JobsPlus employer initiative and a start-your-own-business scheme, both of which specifically target the long-term unemployed, a first steps programme, the new Gateway county and city council work placement scheme, as well as changes to the community employment scheme. It might be astounding to Sinn Féin but many people from my constituency have approached me to say although they are 62, they do not wish to fall into a welfare trap but rather they would like to continue to work and contribute.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Deputy.

Photo of Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara (Clare, Labour)
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They wish to be facilitated in so doing and the Tánaiste has done exactly that by increasing the age.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Deputy. I now call on Deputy Áine Collins.

Photo of Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara (Clare, Labour)
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I wish to make one final point.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy may not do so. I call Deputy Áine Collins.

Photo of Áine CollinsÁine Collins (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I also welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion. The Tánaiste, Deputy Burton, has been the Minister for Social Protection for the past five years. In the early days of the Government, hers was an almost impossible because the country was broke and unemployment was out of control. As a nation, we were unable to borrow the money necessary to safeguard the most vulnerable. Nevertheless, despite all these difficulties, the Tánaiste, Deputy Burton, managed to protect the basic social welfare payments and has now begun to improve them. There have been increases in the old age pension and child benefit, as well as the return of the Christmas bonus. One of the first things done was to increase the minimum wage. The Tánaiste has always stated that Labour is a party for the working class. Creating jobs and protecting rights in employment are priorities. The priority of creating jobs fits well with Fine Gael and the Labour Party. The best way out of poverty is to create a job for the person affected and his or her family. As Members have seen, this policy has been extremely successful.

Those in the media have become obsessed with board appointments. Such appointments are important and should go to those who are qualified to do the job in question. However, they also should go to those who are committed to the Government policy of the day. Appointing people to various positions to help promote the policy of the Minister of the day is essential and necessary if there is to be real reform. It could be argued in the past that even when in opposition, Fianna Fáil was never out of power as its influence, through its appointees, continued even when it was out of office. It is argued in some democracies that for a change in government to be effective, many senior officials and boards also should resign. Instead of being criticised, the Tánaiste should be commended on appointing a person of the calibre and experience of David Begg to the Pensions Authority. All Members are aware that the country faces a pensions crisis and it is completely appropriate to appoint somebody with Mr. Begg's track record and experience in the trade union movement. As workers and their rights will be affected by the decisions made by that authority, it is entirely appropriate from a democratic point of view that the Tánaiste would appoint a suitable candidate who shares the same values and policies on which her party was elected. I commend my fellow woman on a job well done for the past five years and I totally reject this motion.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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I now call on the Technical Group speakers, namely, Deputies Joan Collins, Clare Daly, Coppinger and Pringle, who have 30 minutes in total or seven and a half minutes each.

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, United Left)
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I support the motion, "That Dáil Éireann has no confidence in the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection" tabled by my Technical Group colleagues. I find the amendment tabled by the Government somewhat odd. All Members are aware that this debate is about the appointment of David Begg, former general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and of the Communications Workers Union, CWU, to the position of chair of the Pensions Authority. This appointment was made by the Tánaiste, Deputy Burton, who used a loophole that was deliberately included in legislation to supposedly stop political appointments and cronyism. What I find odd is there is no mention in the Government motion of the appointment or any attempt to justify or defend it. Is this because it simply is an indefensible piece of stroke politics?

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Rubbish.

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, United Left)
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No. The Government often defends the indefensible but perhaps this time, even for those who are not easily embarrassed, it may be a step too far. Surely, this was an opportunity to defend the Government's record on political reform in general. Was this not an opportunity for the Government to show how it has progressed the democratic revolution proclaimed by the new Taoiseach in 2011, together with a commitment to radically overhaul the way in which Irish politics and Government works, by which I mean everyone can do with a good laugh now and then? Every single so-called reform introduced by the Government has been exposed as nothing more than spin. In reality, absolutely nothing has changed. I have no doubt but that it will be business as usual in the next few weeks, with a raft of political appointments to State boards, quangos and whatever else by a Government on the verge of leaving office. There is nothing new here, certainly not for Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael or the now misnamed Labour Party. Together with such cronyism, auction politics is now in full swing in the run-up to the general election., which the people were promised would never happen again after the 2008 crash.

I will conclude by making a number of points. First, I wish to appeal to people in general not to allow their vote to be bought by those chancers on the other side of this Dáil Chamber. They should not allow themselves to be bribed with their own money because that is what is happening here. People should make no mistake about it: we live in a capitalist society, there will be more crashes and the Government certainly will not be capable of defending people who will be made to pay the price again.

I wish to make a point about the Think-tank for Action on Social Change, TASC, of which David Begg has been a director. I am sure Proinsias De Rossa, who is the chair of TASC, endorsed the press statement that was issued on 6 February 2015 stating:

As part of its work on democratic accountability, TASC has long advocated for a more independent process to replace the ad hoc and politicised appointment of people to serve on the boards of public bodies or state initiatives. TASC has published a number of reports highlighting best practice in corporate governance.

Reacting to the announcement of the reforms formally launched yesterday by Minister Howlin, TASC Director Paula Clancy said “The Government’s reforms are a long awaited and welcome move to a system of public appointments based on merit, diversity and transparency.”

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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Yes, it fits all those.

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, United Left)
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It continued by stating "TASC particularly welcomes the Government’s focus on widening access to people from 'all walks of life'".

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, United Left)
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It went on to state:

It is important to note that, as the new guidelines are not underpinned by legislation, a change in culture is required to raise the currently low level of public trust in public life and state activities. The new guidelines rely on the integrity of Ministers to not seek to bend the new rules, and TASC will continue to monitor developments in this area.

I believe the Tánaiste has bent the new rules in what she did over the past week and a half.

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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The Deputy has not read the rules.

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, United Left)
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The Tánaiste should be ashamed of herself-----

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The Deputy should read them.

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, United Left)
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-----because the public's trust in the Government has reached the bottom of the barrel with this appointment.

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy should know what she is talking about before coming into the Chamber.

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, United Left)
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I will make two appeals, one of which is to David Begg. There has been much discussion and praise of David Begg's integrity and of how good a man he has been over the past number of years. I was a young trade union activist in the CWU in the 1980s when David Begg became general secretary of that union. I remember being at the conference at which his taking of the job or otherwise was being debated. David Begg made two very good points. He said that if one pays peanuts, one gets monkeys and, as a result, he sought a good wage, which was fair enough. He also stated he would not accept a job in which he did not have a lifelong expectancy to have that job.

The rules were, therefore, changed at our conference to allow that to happen. I did not agree with it at the time. People should have to put themselves forward before the membership or before the people, as we do, to get re-elected. David Begg secured that change.

We were in a job where every job was secure and every job was pensionable. Within approximately six years of David Begg's appointment, we have come to a point where men and women are waiting on a telephone call at 6 a.m. to find out if they will be called into work that day. This was started by the general secretary of the Communications Workers' Union at the time. We had a situation where there was equal pay for work of equal value. We now have a situation where people in my grade - the post office clerk's grade - have two different wages. There is one wage for younger people who came into the job in the past ten years and there is a different wage, that is, the one I was on as a public sector worker, for others. This cuts across the whole idea of equal pay for work of equal value. We were brought into social partnership but social partnership has brought us to where we are today. I appeal to David Begg to stand down and to do what people expect of him.

David Begg said he was not in it for the money and that it was only a paltry €20,000. A living wage of €11.50 per hour would bring in €24,000 a year. David Begg calls the money people must live on paltry. It is pocket money for him. He should step down. He should say he will not accept this job. Any Member in this House on the Government's side that votes as having confidence in the Tánaiste is buying into the maintenance and continuance of cronyism in this country.

5:40 pm

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Rubbish.

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, United Left)
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It is not rubbish.

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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Tripe.

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin North, United Left)
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It is said that the bite of a dying snake is the most vicious. We have seen that here tonight. Venom has been spewing from the mouths of Government Deputies and Ministers.

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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How original is this? How original can a person get?

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin North, United Left)
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The brazenness on the part of the Labour Party in its attempt to address this indefensible appointment as some sort of a crusade for gender equality takes the biscuit. It is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in this House, and that is up against some pretty stiff competition.

I do not generally agree with the having of motions of no confidence. They should only be tabled in exceptional circumstances. I want to put on the record that I do not view the Tánaiste any differently to any of the other members of the Government. I have no confidence in any of them and, therefore, would not single out the Tánaiste.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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We do not have a whole lot of confidence in Deputy Daly either.

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin North, United Left)
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In that sense, I would not normally have contributed to this debate but I felt I had no choice but to do so on behalf of the 15,000 members of the Irish Aviation Superannuation Scheme, IASS. Half of them probably do not know that the Tánaiste was involved in the appointment of David Begg or that there was any question mark over the process. However, prior to that getting into the media, people, when they heard that David Begg had got this position, were gobsmacked given the role he has played in terms of pensions.

Yesterday morning in my car coming in to work, I could not believe it when I heard the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Alex White, on "Morning Ireland". He tried repeatedly to tell the nation that the appointment was by the book. We all know it was not really by the book. In fact, it was against the whole spirit of the book but relied on one line buried in the middle of it. The Minister then went on to tell us repeatedly that no one had a problem with David Begg and that he was the best thing since sliced bread as far as pensions were concerned. That is not true, it is manifestly false. The Minister continued to repeat ad nauseumthat he was manifestly and exceptionally qualified. That is not true and I will make some points in that regard.

David Begg was on the board of Aer Lingus and head of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. He played a role in the IASS which saw the living standards of deferred pensioners and existing retired members of the scheme decimated. People will be appalled listening to what the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, said. They will be struck dumb at the description of David Begg as fighting for ordinary pension members, because it is not true. The Labour Relations Commission pleaded with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Aer Lingus and the Dublin Airport Authority to assist and to step up to their responsibilities in respect of the IASS. I have a copy of a letter from the Labour Relations Commission to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. It dates from 2011, when David Begg was at the helm, and asks the organisation to deal with the future pension scheme and for its view on how the process should be resolved. What was the answer? Absolutely nothing. I have a letter from 2012 to the same Irish Congress of Trade Unions, headed by David Begg, from the Retired Aviation Staff Association. Against the backdrop of Aer Lingus going into the commercial courts to try to reduce its capital, thereby jeopardising the accrued benefits of Aer Lingus pensioners who had paid for a reasonable expectation in their retirement, the association appealed to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to stand with it. What did the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and David Begg do? Absolutely nothing. That is David Begg's record in terms of these issues.

What happened to those people? What process did David Begg stand over for those pensioners? They were excluded from any negotiations about their livelihoods. Some €6.5 million has been taken out of their pockets since last year. Coincidentally, in the same period, the Aer Lingus company, which is one of the companies involved, allowed one person, namely, the last chief executive, walk away with €6 million. That is the equivalent of what was robbed in one year from existing pensioners, and David Begg was a board member and party to that injustice. It was ensured that no mitigation moneys were put in to defray the cuts to existing pensioners. Pensioners were not allowed sit at the table and be involved in the negotiations. The Retired Aviation Staff Association wrote on numerous occasions to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions begging for its assistance but the door was kept firmly shut. Those are the people who built the companies, having worked there all their lives, and all of them were trade union members who had paid their subscriptions throughout their entire time there.

When the Workplace Relations Bill was introduced, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions did nothing to advance the position of pensioners or give them a voice in the talks. In fact, the congress argued against it. If this is the expertise on which we are relying, people should be very afraid. Not only did David Begg do absolutely nothing for those pensioners who now have had their livelihoods diminished but these people have had millions of euro taken from their pockets. A unilaterally imposed section 50 debt repayment has been put on their monthly income. One of them made the point to me today that, in 2008, VHI contributions were 11% of State pensions but now they are 28%. They have had cuts to their private scheme on top of the 2.5% pension levy, yet they did not even get a voice in the process.

Do the Ministers know, when David Begg was head of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, how many pension initiatives were put forward by the congress under his watch? None. Not only that, he was the head of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions when its own pension fund floundered. It was underfunded, benefits were cut and entry was closed to new members. One of the trustees of that scheme was Brian Duncan. He was also involved in the troubled pension scheme in SIPTUand was the chair of the trustees of the IASS when David Begg was on the board of that company. Pensioners were robbed of a legitimate expectation to a decent income on their retirement, which they had paid for. This was stood over by this man, as a member of the board of Aer Lingus and as the head of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. With expertise like that, we are very much in trouble.

The one thing on which I agree with Deputy Spring is that the pensions industry needs to be challenged. There is no question about that. The Pensions Authority also needs to be challenged. I have no hesitation in saying it is rotten to the core. Adding David Begg into the mix is not going to help. I would nearly say it would increase the rottenness. This organisation needs to be taken on.

The appointment of David Begg is severely disappointing and is indefensible. The Government can dress it up all it likes but there are people tonight who are poorer in their retirement because of David Begg and they are not one bit happy with the Government.

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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As my colleague Deputy Paul Murphy said last night, the Labour Party manifesto, on reforming politics, referred to it being a time for change. The manifesto made it clear that Ireland would never again suffer from abuses such as those seen in the past and that all positions were to be opened up to qualified candidates.

After the McNulty candidacy, the Tánaiste spoke about new procedures which would be much clearer. Now, this week, those have been bypassed. The Tánaiste is condemned by her own words.

The Labour Party leadership came in tonight in the form of Deputy Brendan Howlin and tried to throw smoke and mirrors around the whole issue. It was laughable hearing Deputies opposite talking about gender quotas to try to distract us in some way. Then they came along with the charge that anybody supporting this motion is attacking the labour movement because Mr. Begg comes from that movement. What part of the labour movement does Mr. Begg come from? He comes from the part of that movement that earns €137,400 a year - his salary as the general secretary of ICTU - and has a company car. I assume the Tánaiste agrees with that. In other words, he does not represent the many people in the labour movement who do not earn €137,400. He represents the side of the labour movement that consciously worked to ensure no protests took place when the working class people of this country were sacrificed to pay the gambling debts of developers, bondholders and the wealthy elite.

Since the Labour Party has come in tonight trying to defend the appointment of Mr. Begg, it has put his position up for debate. In 2010, he was the head of the trade union movement in Ireland, when the beginnings of €16,000 was taken out of the pockets of every man, woman and child to pay the debts of the bondholders. Mr. Begg retired in March and who gave the eulogy at his retirement do only the Tánaiste. She thanked him for his role in supporting the work of the Labour Party. What part of cronyism is that? The Tánaiste appoints one of her own, who supported her in her work. I know the position only pays €20,000, which is chicken feed in the pockets of David Begg but to other people, it is a serious amount of money. Mr. Begg was involved in Eircom and Aer Lingus when both companies were privatised, about which he did nothing. Recently, he testified to the banking inquiry as to why he did nothing as a non-executive director of the Central Bank. He admitted that supervision was neither effective nor appropriate in that context. This is the David Begg for whom the Tánaiste has rushed to bypass the selection procedure.

Tonight we are debating a motion of no confidence. The Government has put up many reasons that we should have confidence in the Tánaiste. As Shakespeare said, "let me count the ways" that I do not have confidence in her. Since coming to high office, the Tánaiste has rendered useless through over-use so many adjectives used in the past, such as treacherous, disgraceful and incredible. Even by the standards of right wing Labour, which has gone into coalitions for the past generation, in her role as Minister for Social Protection, a portfolio so integral to so many vulnerable, working and unemployed people, women and children, she has shown no mercy when asked to swing her axe by Fine Gael.

She began with a propaganda campaign about welfare abuse when she took office in that Department, paving the way for an attack on all of the safety nets that people need in society. Most startling is her attack on women, mainly working class women. Funnily, she got elected on the back of Mary Robinson's election in the Mulhuddart ward. Since coming into this office, she has proceeded to cut child benefit, which attacks every woman in this country - a broken promise by the Labour Party-----

5:50 pm

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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We increased it.

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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-----and eight separate cuts to lone parents, 90% of whom are women and who constitute the biggest group in poverty in society already. Along the way, the Tánaiste has used the most Tory style language of welfare dependency, which was absolutely despicable and callous beyond belief. Despite letters and protestations from many women, she had no compassion. She cut the back to school allowance, clothing and footwear allowance, fuel allowance, maternity pay and, of course, rent allowance - a key facet of the Tánaiste's Department.

The manner in which she has presided over a housing and rents emergency really puts her position up for a vote of no confidence. Cutting rent supplement was bad enough as it meant she was putting the most vulnerable in the position of becoming homeless. More than that, how does a Labour Party leader stand over 28 council houses getting built in the first three quarters of 2015? How does the Tánaiste justify that? Surely the Labour Party is at least meant to stand for something like that.

One of the Tánaiste's most despicable acts in her role as leader of the Labour Party and Tánaiste was the events in Jobstown, where she has criminalised a whole working class community. This Friday, men and women will go to court because of the Tánaiste bringing into play gardaí, who have had nothing else to do for the past year. Those men and women will face the court for daring to protest against her austerity measures. I have often heard the Tánaiste say she has no role in the police prosecuting this. I have never once heard her ask for the charges to be called off. She has that chance tonight as she has had for the past year or so.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, you cannot interfere in the normal process of the law. You cannot use a debate in Dáil Éireann to interfere with people's rights under the law. Whether you agree or disagree is irrelevant.

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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She is ignoring it, a Cheann Comhairle.

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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I want to finish on the Tánaiste's role in history. With this appointment, she has placed her own seat in Dublin West on a knife edge. If there is one thing that unites everyone from Mulhuddart to Castleknock to Clonee and beyond, it is cronyism and corruption. The one solitary thing one would expect the Labour Party to stand for in government was taking a very clear case against-----

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Corruption?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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That not parliamentary language.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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She should withdraw that remark.

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Corruption? A Cheann Comhairle-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, did you use the word "corruption"? You cannot in this Chamber accuse people of corruption or anything else.

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Cronyism. Sorry, I said that the Labour Party-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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No, sorry Deputy, you will have to withdraw your remark about corruption.

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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She said corruption.

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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-----should take a stand against corruption by seeing that all appointments were done in an above board way.

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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She did not say that. She should be ashamed of herself.

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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The Ceann Comhairle was not here when I spoke earlier, in fairness, but I made that clear. Tonight in the vote of no confidence, the Government will troop in-----

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I hesitate to interrupt Deputy Coppinger but she is, in a narrow bitter way, throwing accusations of corruption around.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot have that. Please, Tánaiste, resume your seat.

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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It is extraordinary, a Cheann Comhairle.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Never, ever in my existence have I ever been involved in anything that has involved any breach of the law.

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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It is despicable.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The Ceann Comhairle should ask the speaker to withdraw that.

Photo of John HalliganJohn Halligan (Waterford, Independent)
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Deputy Coppinger did not say that.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I have already warned Deputy Coppinger about her use of language.

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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She should withdraw that remark.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I would ask Deputy Coppinger to stick to the motion and not insinuate things about other people.

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order, what about withdrawing the comment? Corruption-----

Photo of John HalliganJohn Halligan (Waterford, Independent)
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She did not say that. She did not accuse the Tánaiste of being corrupt.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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She did.

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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She did.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I am telling you, Deputy Coppinger, you cannot use this Chamber to accuse people of any wrongdoing.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I am sure Deputy Halligan shut his ears so as not to hear her.

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Can I continue, or maybe the Tánaiste's friend from ISIS behind her - did the Deputy ever apologise for calling people-----

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Excuse me----

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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It is quite incredible

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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That is absolutely despicable. The Deputy has lost the run of herself.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Listen, Deputy, will you withdraw that remark please?

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Sorry?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Withdraw that remark.

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Which remark?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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ISIS.

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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That he called people ISIS? He did. That is just a fact.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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That is not what he said.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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No, you-----

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Is the Deputy saying he did not? Okay. The Deputy had better withdraw from the record that he did but actually-----

Photo of John HalliganJohn Halligan (Waterford, Independent)
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There you go, Deputy Keating, withdraw it.

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Excuse me, a Cheann Comhairle. This is absolutely outrageous. I never made any reference to that word.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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It is fantasy.

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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The Deputy did, actually.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Resume your seat, Deputy Keating. People will read the transcript and they will see what the Deputy is at. Now would you please stick to what is allowed under Standing Orders in this Chamber, Deputy Coppinger? You are not beyond Standing Orders.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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This is fantasy.

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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It is disgraceful.

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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In finishing, obviously tonight the Government and the Labour Party intend to troop in here, vote down this motion and vote----

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I do not think it is funny.

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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----confidence in the Tánaiste. However, in six weeks, or maybe more, the electorate will have an opportunity to give its vote of confidence in the Tánaiste.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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And in Deputy Coppinger too.

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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That is democracy.

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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By the Tánaiste's actions in recent times, with this appointment, I believe they will make a very harsh verdict and will make a decision in Dublin West on behalf of the whole nation.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, you are taking time away from Deputy Pringle. Resume your seat, thank you. Deputy Pringle has only five minutes as a result of you-----

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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If you had not interrupted me continually-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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You will never be interrupted in this Chamber if you stay within the rules.

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Really?

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal South West, Independent)
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Recent revelations point to not just one but two appointments made outside the-----

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Is Deputy Coppinger going to remove that remark from the record?

6:00 pm

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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I am simply speaking the truth.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Will you please behave yourself? Thank you. Deputy Pringle, without interruption.

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal South West, Independent)
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Two appointments have been made outside the public service appointments process by the Labour leader, the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection. It reminds us of the position not long ago when the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, appointed the chairman of the Workplace Relations Commission outside of the normally recommended procedures.

It is a timely revelation because, this week, the long-awaited Public Sector Standards Bill 2015 is going through Second Stage in the Dáil. We will be hearing Ministers on the Government benches touting more false declarations of just how much they pushed for political reform. It is no wonder David Begg was appointed earlier this week and not after the Bill was passed by the Dáil. Why not wait until the Bill was passed and use the outside appointments board that would have been established by it? Why was the Tánaiste so quick to appoint the ex-ICTU chief David Begg as chairman of the Pensions Authority? What expertise does he have on the issue of pensions anyway? Indeed, I heard him interviewed on radio when he said he did not even know this job was available and that it is not a job he would have chosen, so where is his expertise and his qualification for the job? How are our citizens and members of the public, whose money is paying for his €20,000 annual fee, supposed to know about his qualifications-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Sorry, this debate is not about David Begg; it is about confidence in the Tánaiste. It is very unfair to somebody who is not here to defend himself or herself to spend the time criticising them. Please stick to the rules of the House.

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal South West, Independent)
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The debate is about the use of the public appointments process. I would like to also remind the Labour Party that, on page 42 of its 2011 manifesto, it stated its first step would be to: "End political cronyism by opening up positions on state boards to all qualified candidates, and require appointments to be scrutinised by the Dáil." Under the manifesto heading, "Ending Political Cronyism", it stated:

Labour will end the system whereby appointments to state boards are used as a form of political patronage and for rewarding insiders. In future, appointment to boards must be based on a demonstrable capacity to do the job. Labour intends to start this process immediately... Labour will publicly advertise all vacancies, and invite applications from the public.

Here we are, five years down the road, and it is only now bringing in legislation to establish the outside appointments commission, and it actually makes appointments before that legislation comes through.

In paragraph 9.1.4 of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's published guidelines on appointing people to State boards, there is a sneaky clause hidden in the middle of the nine-page document allowing exemptions to any of these rules if the Minister can identify a person who was evidently and objectively highly qualified and capable of effectively discharging the role of chair of the State board, and who has not otherwise applied through the www.stateboards.ie process. I and the public would like to know how a Minister, the Tánaiste in this case, or even a party leader, identifies or demonstrates that an individual is evidently and objectively highly qualified. I do not remember the Tánaiste handing out CVs to people, asking them whether they can verify the qualifications for the job, so how has it been identified that David Begg, or indeed Ita Mangan, who was also appointed by the Tánaiste to the Citizens Information Board outside normal procedures-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Sorry, Deputy. Would you please refrain from mentioning people's names in the Chamber?

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal South West, Independent)
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-----are suited to these jobs and how does she objectively demonstrate they are highly qualified? These people's highly public profiles do not exactly identify or demonstrate their high skills. It is sickening to think that certain cherry-picked individuals are awarded privileged positions in society and, in this instance, allowed to bypass the interview process which ordinary applicants have to overcome.

I remind the Government we have a jobs crisis in this country, whatever about the figures or repetitive talk of an economic upturn. In my county of Donegal, jobseekers looking for work in the local economy have seen little job creation overall since the crash and a lack of rural broadband or infrastructure upgrades to the road and transport network, while other anti-rural policies pushed by the Government have stifled job creation. The quality of the majority of these new jobs is questionable and many people, including seasonal workers, find themselves in "if and when" and zero-hour contract jobs. As a result, they are relying on the social welfare income supports which the Tánaiste has persistently cut since coming into government. Furthermore, she has ruled out any commitment to restore jobseeker payments for those aged under 26 and has failed on the promise of a youth guarantee, leaving over 2,000 young people still unemployed in County Donegal, an unacceptably high number after five years in government.

I recently received parliamentary question replies in regard to JobPath, a programme which is furthering the privatisation of social protection and off-loading the long-term unemployed to private sector companies. Some 3,000 people are currently under their watch and very little is known as to the mechanics of this outsourcing. The "pay by results" contracts at the centre of the private companies' pact with the Department of Social Protection is a model known to push claimants into low pay, low quality and temporary employment. This cycle is already happening to people on part-time, low hours or seasonal work, but many more people who are long-term unemployed could end up moving between poor quality employment and social welfare.

The inclusion of private sector companies to carry out State services is a reflection of the incompetence of the Department and its Minister in dealing with the long-term unemployed. There are not even sufficient monitoring regimes in place, which I know because the Tánaiste could not even answer a question as to the costs awarded to private companies which are coming from the State's pockets because she deemed them commercially sensitive - "commercially sensitive" appears to mean the use of public money. This new strand of privatisation of public services scarily reflects what has been happening in the UK with the Conservative government. I fear that the most vulnerable once again will be pushed aside and that the issue of access to child care has been disregarded, affecting many lone parents already hit hard by the Tánaiste's cruel cuts.

How many others of those who have been or are currently on State boards are to blame for much of the incompetence that has played out in the provision of Government services and the management of our economy? We will never know because we cannot hold these people to account as we never knew if they were objectively or evidently highly qualified.

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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I watched with amusement Deputy Daly's contribution, which I thought was very good, by the way, but I am sure Deputy Ross must have been cringing. Let us be honest about it - this was a debate about everything and nothing. It masquerades as a motion of no confidence in the Tánaiste but it has been little more than an opportunity for the followers of Deputy Ross to talk about whatever grabs their fancy, and we have seen that in abundance tonight.

There is nothing particularly wrong about that, and it is hardly the first time it has happened. What is wrong is that Deputy Ross and his crew have dragged David Begg into their publicity-seeking exercise in a cynical and opportunistic way, which is grossly unfair to him. Let us cut to the bottom line. The chair of the Pensions Authority is an important job. David Begg is the best man for the job and the Tánaiste was well within her rights to exercise her initiative and ask him to do that job. I ask those on the left, among whom I include Deputies Finian McGrath and John Halligan, who they want to see sitting as head of the Pensions Authority.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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We want to see a proper process.

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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Is it someone who knows what workers' rights are and is there to protect them, or an insider, as Deputy Ross would have it?

As the House knows well, the Government has established new rules for appointments to State boards. We changed the rules to make the system more open and to broaden the range of people on State boards. A report produced by the Institute of Directors before Christmas makes it clear the new regulations are working. We have a wider range of people, better qualified people and a system people really trust. The new system is the most radical reform of our system of governance in the State sector and it will serve us well into the future.

When we changed the system, we deliberately ensured that Ministers would be able to use their initiative to appoint people of high quality who are well qualified for the job. That is precisely what the Tánaiste did in this case. She appointed a man whose qualifications for the job are impeccable and who also has the know-how to drive the implementation of policy for the next few years. He is well qualified on that. David Begg has the experience, the expert knowledge and the personal qualities needed to do the job, and I know he will do it well.

Much of this debate has been dominated by talk about the past, which is fair enough. As we come to the end of this Dáil, it is only right we should reflect on the record of this Government. It is only right we should talk about how we came back from bankruptcy to be the fastest-growing economy in Europe. It is only right we should talk about how we are putting the country back to work, with nearly 1,000 new jobs announced just today. It is only right we should talk about the progress we have made in public services, despite the fact Fianna Fáil left us without a red cent to spend in the first three years of this Government.

In my own area, I am particularly proud of the progress we have made in modernising our mental health services. I am proud of the fact parents no longer have to worry about the cost of bringing their children to see a doctor. I am proud we are able to put money into the fair deal scheme and make sure it is on a sound footing for the future. I am proud of what we have achieved. However, I am also frustrated that the Government has had to spend much of the last five years cleaning up the mess left by Fianna Fáil and the Greens. Thankfully, that part of the job is nearly done. The recovery is not yet a done deal but we are well on the way. Just as the Opposition will complain and protest about the past, it is our job on this side of the House to talk about the future, to talk about what we have to do with public services, to talk about what we will secure and how we will ensure the recovery remains solid and on a firm footing, and to use the fruits of that recovery to improve the lot of all our citizens.

We have done the job the Irish people asked us to do five years ago. Our job now is to paint a picture of a better, fairer future and to persuade the people to give us the chance to make it better.

I find the fact that someone who has spent life inside and outside of this House talking about how bad it is that people should have pensions at all and the scathing attacks made by Deputy Ross on Aer Lingus pensioners looking for their rights to be reinstated particularly annoying. It is sad that we now see others on the other side of the House taking the same position. It is ridiculous. This motion should never have come before the House.

6:10 pm

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Fitzmaurice. There are three speakers in this slot, with five minutes each.

Photo of Michael FitzmauriceMichael Fitzmaurice (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Independent)
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Yesterday evening I came in to listen to the debate, but all I heard from the across the floor was what Fianna Fáil did in its last five years. The following contributor then spoke about people who had connections with bankers and what they did and said during those years. I am not long here, but I have seen all of that on television and it is all history now. A government is like a football team. It should take up the mantle and go forward and should not keep blaming the opposition for losing the match.

The reason this motion has been put forward is simple. It is because of cronyism. It is not because of what Fianna Fáil did in its last five years in government. It is not because of what Deputy Shane Ross did or did not say in those years. It is not a blame game, but simply because of cronyism, an issue we heard about on radio in 2011. We were told then there would be no more cronyism, no more nods and winks, and that politics would be done in a new way.

Anybody in business who wants to take on a new employee goes through a system. They advertise the position, people apply for and submit CVs. The employer examines the CVs and whittles the numbers down to the eight or ten most suitable people for the job and interviews them. Employers do not just take people in on a nod and a wink. Nobody suggests that the person in question in this case is not suitable. What they are saying is that due process should take place.

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Some are. The Deputy should have been here earlier.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Quiet please.

Photo of Michael FitzmauriceMichael Fitzmaurice (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Independent)
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Everybody can make a mistake, but the sad thing about people in politics is that we are not able to put up our hands and admit them. The people have great respect for those who admit they made a genuine mistake, that they should not have done it and will change it.

Let us not hide behind a line in legislation. We can have all the legislation in the world, all the dos and don'ts and can hide behind the provisions, but we must still be able to look ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves whether we did it right, whether it was fair, whether we did it for the people of Ireland, whether we did it for the future of pensions and whether we did for our country.

Photo of Arthur SpringArthur Spring (Kerry North-West Limerick, Labour)
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Yes.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Absolutely, I did.

Photo of Michael FitzmauriceMichael Fitzmaurice (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Independent)
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One thing the Tánaiste cannot say when she looks in the mirror is that she did it for the people of Ireland. It is cronyism at its best. This is what peeves people. In a poll yesterday evening, 80% of people said it was cronyism. Are they wrong-----

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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That is right.

Photo of Michael FitzmauriceMichael Fitzmaurice (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Independent)
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-----or are we not in touch with the people?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The Deputy is out of touch.

Photo of Michael FitzmauriceMichael Fitzmaurice (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Independent)
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Listening to the people on the ground, they are fed up with what is going on in politics - the nod and the wink. I am not long here, but I have seen appointments of judges and appointments to different boards. This is happening day after day.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Who has been appointing judges?

Photo of Michael FitzmauriceMichael Fitzmaurice (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Independent)
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The way these appointments are being made is completely wrong. If mistakes are made, let us change the system. Let us not continue with the hoodwink system that is going on. If the Tánaiste or if I make a mistake, let us be brave, let us stand up and be counted and admit it. Let us not hide behind the curtain or veil of the protection of others. One of the members of the Tánaiste's party admitted openly their disagreement with the appointment. We need honesty.

The people will judge each and every one of us in the next month or six weeks and there will be no protective curtain in front of us. There will be no veil to protect us. We will have to be open, honest and transparent and they will judge what has gone on here.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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I thank those who proposed this motion. The Sunday Independentfamously called the Tánaiste a "wonder woman". I have often referred to that here, because I believed it to be wrong. When I look at the Tánaiste, I do not see her as a wonder woman, but as the very opposite. When she came into office, one would swear she was like Our Lady. Unfortunately, she is not, although she thought she was.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Joan of Arc.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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In 2014, the Tánaiste said that more members of State boards should be selected through the Public Appointments Service. What happened to that proposal?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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They are.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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They are not. Why did the Tánaiste engage in the appointment to the Pensions Board? Her statement of 2014 was hypocritical and she is a hypocrite. That is exactly what she is.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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No, we do not use that language.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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I am sorry, but it is the truth. I can say it when it is the truth.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy cannot say that.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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The Tánaiste knows what she did in the past so that she could fill State boards with her own people. The only qualification people needed was to be involved with the Labour Party or Fine Gael and they could get whatever they wanted.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The Deputy is wrong.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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The Tánaiste is a hypocrite of the worst type.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy does not need to use that language.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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Unfortunately, it is true. The truth hurts at times. The one hope I have is that the electorate will judge the Tánaiste in a number of week's time. The people will look at what she did, how she acted, how she led and how she has carried on over the past five years. Let them judge her. We know what she is. I know what she is - a hypocrite.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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There is no need for strong language like that here.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The Deputy had to stand down from a board.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Ross.

Photo of Arthur SpringArthur Spring (Kerry North-West Limerick, Labour)
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What board did the Deputy stand down from?

Photo of Derek KeatingDerek Keating (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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What board did the Deputy have to stand down from?

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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Before I forget, I would like to deal with the statement made by the Minister of State. I do not know what she is referring to in regard to pensioners. I was one of the people in this House who represented the deferred pensioners of Aer Lingus and the DAA in this House in regard to the conditions the Minister and the Government so ruthlessly imposed on them. I do not know to what she was referring, but I think she got it wrong. That is all right. I am used to her getting it wrong. I do not ask her to apologise, but would like the record to be corrected. She is wrong. I never did what she said. I represented the people to whom she referred - quite the opposite of what she said.

Deputy Spring made a statement suggesting I made representations for people to be put on a semi-State body. Since I have been a Member of the Dáil or the Seanad, I have frequently made suggestions about who should or should not be on semi-State bodies. Since I have been such a critic of the cronyism that has gone on, I have been asked frequently for new names and new suggestions for members and I have done that and am not ashamed of doing so. However, I am not going to name all of them tonight at the whim of Deputy Spring. Their names are on the record.

Photo of Arthur SpringArthur Spring (Kerry North-West Limerick, Labour)
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Has the Deputy lobbied for people to be appointed? At least he admits he has suggested names.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Hold on Deputy, please.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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The reason I have done that is because of the cronyism of the Government and the criticism of other governments. I have done so because I do not believe the way these jobs are being filled currently is right. I do not ever wish the appointments boards to bypass proper process. What I have done is suggest names as alternatives to the cronyism and I will continue to do that, because that is my job.

Let me get back now to this important motion. David Begg is not the issue.

The Government, today and yesterday, has tried to make the virtues, talents and merits of Mr. David Begg the issue. That is not the issue. The issue is that a process was constructed simply to give the impression that there were some new guidelines for the appointments to semi-State bodies.

The Tánaiste is aware of the nine-page document introduced after much palaver as some sort of fresh approach to the cronyism that existed before under this and previous Governments. The process was first introduced in what was called a model by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, in September last year when he stated, although not in this House, that "today's decision complements the current system with a more structured approach requiring that all appointments to vacancies on State boards must: be advertised openly on the State boards portal, www.stateboards.ie, operated by the Public Appointments Service." That did not happen in this case but the Minister announced that it would be happening now. Why did it not happen in this case?

6:20 pm

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Read the regulations.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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I have read them and there is no qualification whatever in it. The Tánaiste might raise her eyes to heaven. The qualifications arose when the final document was produced but the first document and its preface did not indicate we would have the old system of political appointments shoved in there by stealth. All we are asking on this side of the House is that Mr. Begg, for all his talents - and he has them - should simply be treated like a normal mortal. What divine right has he got to bypass this process?

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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He has it because he is a supporter of the Labour Party.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Is he?

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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The Tánaiste described him as such.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I stated that he was a supporter of the labour movement.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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She said he was a supporter of the Labour Party, which is why he gets that divine right.

Photo of Kevin HumphreysKevin Humphreys (Dublin South East, Labour)
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The Deputy gets a lot wrong.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Ross-----

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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They are the Tánaiste's own words. She said he was a supporter of the Labour Party.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Ross, you are a long time-----

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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At his retirement function, her words were that he was a supporter of the Labour Party and a supporter of the labour movement.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I referred to the movement.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Ross has been a Member of the Houses of the Oireachtas for a long time and he knows it is a tradition that we do not name people outside this House.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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We have been speaking about him.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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They are not here to defend themselves. The Deputy may refer to the appointment but it is grossly unfair to people who are not here to defend themselves. Please stick to what you have always done.

Photo of John HalliganJohn Halligan (Waterford, Independent)
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He has been referred to all night.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I am in the Chair and it is my duty to protect those who are not Members of the House.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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I take your point, which is perfectly fair. The appointee was described outside this House by the Tánaiste as a supporter of the Labour Party.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Movement.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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No, the Labour Party and labour movement. On another occasion, the Tánaiste described him as a supporter of the labour movement but she also described him as a supporter of the Labour Party.

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Yes, I have the evidence before me.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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It is on record, in case she forgets it.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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She cannot get away with that. It is important as this particular model, which camouflaged everything so well, was constructed deliberately with a great gaping hole in the middle. It negates all the other clauses that were put into the document, as a Minister, despite all the jargon, can still pick and choose whomever he or she wants.

These guidelines have become a vehicle for cronyism. Unfortunately, there have been six examples outlined in the The Irish Daily Mailand other examples appeared today. They are the preface to what Deputy Daly referred to as a further example of the cronyism that we will continue to see in the farewell honours bestowed by the Government. This is only the beginning of a tradition honoured by all Governments since the foundation of the State. Only two weeks ago, we saw the process relating to the police authority, with an in-built bypass meaning the Minister can make direct appointments instead of the Public Appointments Service. She also has the same right to renew appointments. A week ago we saw an advertisement for judges placed in newspapers and they will, I presume, be appointed before the Government leaves office. The problem is this practice has not been tackled either. Why has the Government not decided that the way it appoints the Judiciary should change in the way it aspired to? Instead, we have seen a running mate of the Taoiseach appointed to the Judiciary. I am sure he is very able but he never had to do an interview for the post.

There are other examples that are completely unacceptable and we have seen cronyism rife in the country. This is only another symptom of what is going on which the Government is refusing to end.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I will put the question.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Deputy Ross's nominee was Seán FitzPatrick. That is who he wanted.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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Behave yourself, Tánaiste.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Sorry, Tánaiste, I am speaking.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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That is not right.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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That is nonsense.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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He was the Deputy's nominee. We know he was the Deputy's nominee.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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It is complete nonsense. Withdraw the remark.

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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It is the truth.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputies should show some respect for the Chair.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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I never suggested that Mr. FitzPatrick should be on a board at any stage.

Photo of John HalliganJohn Halligan (Waterford, Independent)
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Would she say that outside the House?

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy stated he was too dynamic to be the Governor of the Central Bank.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Show some respect for the Chair.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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I never said that.

Amendment put:

The Dáil divided: Tá, 81; Níl, 34.


Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies John Halligan and Shane Ross.

Níl

Amendment declared carried.

Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."

The Dáil divided: Tá, 82; Níl, 32.


Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies John Halligan and Shane Ross.

Níl

Question declared carried.

The Dáil adjourned at at 9.30 p.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Thursday, 21 January 2016.