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'They were whipped into line': Committee backs appointment of Eirgrid chairman

Despite raising concerns about the appointment of John O’Connor last week, government members of the Transport and Communications committee backed his appointment today.

Incoming chairman of Eirgrid John O’Connor pictured at the committee last week.
Incoming chairman of Eirgrid John O’Connor pictured at the committee last week.
Image: Screengrab via Oireachtas TV

GOVERNMENT TDS AND senators have defeated a motion put forward by Fianna Fáil, opposing the appointment of John O’Connor as the new chairman of Eirgrid in the wake of his performance in front of the Transport and Communications Committee last week.

Members of that committee met this morning in private session to consider a motion put forward by Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley opposing O’Connor’s appointment in the wake of his performance in front of TDs and Senators last week.

O’Connor was widely criticised for his performance after admitting he would not like to live close to an electricity pylon.

Members, including some from the government benches, questioned his suitability for the role in light of his previous affiliation to An Bord Pleanála, but the experienced civil servant denied any conflict of interest.

Dooley’s motion asked the Committee to reject the proposal of Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte to appoint O’Connor as the Eirgrid chairman.

But the government members of the committee put down an amended motion this morning. This noted the “concerns expressed by the committee to the Minister” and the “serious concerns” raised by the Eirgrid proposals to update the State’s electricity infrastructure by erecting large pylons in some areas.

It also called for a report from the company on its consultation process within two months. The motion was passed by the committee thanks to the government’s majority.

Speaking afterwards, Dooley said that the meeting was “forced it into private session which allowed Fine Gaelers, who were totally against Mr O’Connor last week, to hide behind the private session”.

He said that government TDs on the committee “were whipped into line” describing the situation as “appalling”.

“The government talk an awful lot about Dáil reform and what they’ve effectively done is forced the whip,” he said. “They snuck into private session and defended him [O'Connor] when push came to shove.”

Attempts to contact a number of government TDs on the committee were not immediately successful.

Earlier this week one of them, Labour TD Sean Kenny, accused Fianna Fáil of “playing politics”.

“I think the fact that Fianna Fáil of all people are putting down a motion is a bit rich considering their track record,” he told TheJournal.ie, expressing confidence in the “integrity and capability” of O’Connor.

Kenny tweeted this morning:

image

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach said last night that the government continued to have confidence in O’Connor. It’s also emerged that Rabbitte sent a four-page letter to the committee last night backing O’Connor.

Read: ‘I wouldn’t like to live close to a pylon, but who would?’ – Incoming Eirgrid chair

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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