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Joan Burton is facing a motion of no confidence next week

David Begg’s appointment sparked political controversy this week.

Updated 6.55pm 

TÁNAISTE JOAN BURTON will face a motion of no confidence in the Dáil next week following her controversial appointment of former union boss David Begg as chair of the Pensions Authority.

Independent Alliance TDs Shane Ross, Finian McGrath, Michael Fitzmaurice, John Halligan and Tom Fleming have put their name to the motion which states simply:

That Dáil Éireann has no confidence in the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection.

The motion will almost certainly be defeated due to the government’s majority, but two nights of Dáil debate are likely to keep the issue of Begg’s new role in the spotlight.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie this evening, Ross said:

It’s our opportunity to point out how cronyism is still absolutely endemic in Irish political life. I suspect what we’re seeing here are the farewell honours.

Begg to differ

Earlier, Begg said his new role wasn’t one he would have put himself forward for – and that he’ll step away from the job if Labour wants him to.

However, he said he won’t be forced out of the job by political opponents of the party.

The ex-ICTU general secretary’s appointment sparked political controversy this week, after it emerged that Burton had appointed him directly in her role as social protection minister.

There was no public service advertising or appointments process – and while the move is allowed under state board guidelines opposition TDs have attacked the coalition over it.

Criticism 

Fitzmaurice said the appointment shows that “cronyism is alive and well and still widespread in government circles”.

This kind of carry on is what turns people off politics and I wouldn’t blame them either. It shows that the Labour Party are just as good as Fine Gael at talking out of two sides of their mouth.

Martin Ferris of Sinn Féin yesterday described it as “cronyism” while Ross questioned Begg’s credentials for the job:

Tweet by @Shane Ross Source: Shane Ross/Twitter

There’s even been criticism from within the Labour ranks, with TD Ciara Conway asking:

Why have the rules in place if you’re not going to abide by them?

Begg will make just over €20,000 a year for five years in the role.

Begg’s defence

Speaking on Morning Ireland today, Begg said he was asked by the Tánaiste late last year whether he’d be interested in the role.

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Responding to the criticism from Ross, he said the TD and former senator had been attacking him for 30 years.

“The fact of the matter is I don’t have any other public appointments,” he said, referring the direct criticism in Ross’s tweet.

The appointment was made within guidelines, he said.

“If there is a problem here, if the government or the Labour members in government have a problem with this I have no problem if they want to rethink the situation,” Begg said this morning.

He said he would not “force his way” into the role, adding:

It’s not a job I would have liked or volunteered for. I think it’s a particularly difficult and challenging job, but I was honoured to be offered the job and on that basis I accepted it.

However, he said he was not going to be “driven out of” the role by Shane Ross or anyone else.

- additional reporting from Hugh O’Connell 

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Daragh Brophy

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