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Ex-Fine Gael minister and former judge to be appointed to political standards watchdog

Under legislation giving effect to SIPO, the two appointments are required to be a former judge and a former politician and will need the approval of both the Dáil and Seanad.

Jim O'Keeffe retired from the Dáil in 2011.
Jim O'Keeffe retired from the Dáil in 2011.
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Updated 8.45pm

THE GOVERNMENT HAS nominated former Fine Gael TD and junior minister Jim O’Keeffe to be appointed to the board of the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO), one of two appointees that will allow the political standards watchdog to recommence its current investigations.

Cabinet today approved the nominations of O’Keeffe, who served as a TD for Cork South West between 1977 and 2011, and former High Court judge Daniel O’Keeffe, who served on the court from 2008 and 2013, to the board of SIPO.

Under legislation giving effect to SIPO, the two appointments are required to be a former judge, who becomes chairperson, and a former member of the Oireachtas.

The ex-TD or Senator, in this case Jim O’Keeffe, is appointed by the government after motions before both the Dáil and Seanad while the chairperson, who in this case will be Daniel O’Keeffe as a former judge, is appointed by the President after motions before both the Dáil and Seanad.

The two positions on the six-member board became vacant last month including that of the chairman, former High Court judge Matthew Smith, and as a result a number of investigations could not be advanced.

Appointments to the board must be made by the Oireachtas on the recommendation of Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin who brought the names to Cabinet today.

A government spokesperson confirmed that the appointments are expected to allow the committee to advance its investigations. Howlin will discuss the appointments with the leaders of the opposition parties before tabling motions before the Dáil and Seanad.

This includes a probe into claims made by Fianna Fáil senator Brían Ó Domhnaill for travel and subsistence expenses in 2006 and 2007, before he was appointed to the Seanad by then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Ó Domhnaill has denied any wrongdoing, and a previous internal Fianna Fáil inquiry found no basis for the allegations.

Yesterday, a High Court judge ruled that the investigation can go ahead, dismissing a challenge from the Donegal-based senator.

First published 7.41pm

Read: Political standards watchdog cannot fulfill duties because of appointments delay

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Hugh O'Connell

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