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‘I have never made a personal attack on another politician, but I am furious’

Independent TD John Halligan was first up this evening in the debate on the Tánaiste’s no confidence motion.

File Photo The Tanaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton announced David Begg as incoming Chairperson of the Pensions Authority for a five-year term. David Begg Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

TÁNAISTE JOAN BURTON has faced criticism from opposition TDs today during a motion of no confidence against her.

The Independent Alliance group tabled the vote after the Labour leader used a clause in legislation to assign former Ictu boss David Begg to chair the Pensions Authority.

Burton, accused of “cronyism”, defended the move, saying Begg has the expertise and experience required to fill the role.

She was also attacked on her role as Minister for Social Protection, with TDs citing rising levels of child homelessness.

Waterford TD John Halligan began his speech by saying it did not give him pleasure to put the motion against the Tánaiste, and stressed there was “no animosity” between the two.

I have never ever made a personal attack on any minister or member of this Dáil, but I am furious.

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He told the Dáil that appointing “party favourites to state boards” before a general election “is a long-standing and established tradition”.

“The Tánaiste has always been a most vocal critic of political cronyism,” Halligan said. “She expressed grave concern that political appointments would be made via a back-door route.”

John McNulty

He highlighted her previous criticisms of John McNulty’s appointment to the board of Imma.

The Independent Alliance TD went on to criticise Begg in saying that the €20,500-per-year role wasn’t lavishly paid:

“I could fill this chamber 100 times over with pensioners, people on invalidity, low-paid workers and the unemployed, all of them earning less than €20,000 a year. And what about the single mothers who would be glad of an additional income of €20,000?

These people know what a pittance is. David Begg does not.

He added that the level of homelessness he has seen in the past three months is more than what was seen in the entire first year he was in office, citing child homelessness as a particular issue.

His Independent Alliance colleague, Finian McGrath, said that the government must “surrender their right to make political appointments”.

“Independent bodies must be set up to exclude politicians from the ranks of those making such decisions,” he said.

Labour manifesto

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy quoted from Labour’s own election manifesto, in which the party pledges to end Ireland’s “crony capitalism image”:

Labour’s pledge is that Ireland will never again be vulnerable to the kinds of abuses of corporate and political power that have risked our country’s sovereignty. To restore confidence at home and abroad in public governance, Ireland must make significant changes in the culture and framework within which business is conducted.

Burton told the Dáil in her response to the no confidence motion that she appointed Begg “because he was the right person for the job”, citing his years of experience from working with the Communications Workers Union, Ictu, and Concern.

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“In all of these roles he developed expertise in range of areas including pensions.”

Citing Begg’s work in resolving issues with the Waterford Crystal pension scheme, Burton described Halligan’s position against the appointment of Begg as “deeply disappointing” given the work the trade union boss had done in Halligan’s home constituency:

It seems very odd to me… that Halligan would not actually honour the work that has been done.

Burton said the appointment was above board and was made using a mechanism which allows for those clearly suitable for a role to be hired without any other process.

The Tánaiste also defended her work as Minister for Social Protection, saying core welfare payments had been protected under the watch of Labour and Fine Gael after being cut the previous Fianna Fáil/Green coalition:

Together with our coalition partners we have managed to end the worst recession in Ireland in living memory while remaining true to those commitments.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny chose to focus on this element, rather than the appointment of Begg, praising the Tánaiste’s work and saying he was “determined that nobody is left behind by the economic recovery underway in the country”.

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The vote on the motion of no confidence is due to held tomorrow night.

Poll: Do you support today’s no-confidence motion against Joan Burton? >

More: Why the John Delaney controversy is another (avoidable) fiasco for Labour >

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