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Dáil approves appointment of former Senator and ex-NAGP lobbyist Geraldine Feeney to Sipo

No debate was held on the motion, despite objection to this by opposition politicians.

Geraldine Feeney
Geraldine Feeney
Image: James Horan via RollingNews.ie

THE DÁIL HAS voted to approve the appointment of former Senator and ex-NAGP lobbyist Geraldine Feeney to a position on the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo).

The vote was held yesterday evening and saw 87 TDs – from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Green Party, Regional group and Independent group – voting in favour. 57 TDs from other parties voted against. 

No debate was held on the motion, despite objection to this by opposition politicians. 

Representatives from both Sinn Féin and the Social Democrats had been among those to criticise the government for not facilitating a debate on the nomination. 

Feeney is a former Fianna Fáil Senator who was nominated by the government for one of the two vacant positions on political ethics watchdog Sipo. 

The other nominee is Justice Garrett Sheehan, whose nomination was not objected to in the Dáil and who will become Sipo chairperson. 

The position being filled by Feeney is required to be filled by a former member of the Oireachtas. 

Deputy Paul Murphy last week asked Sipo to investigate if Tánaiste Leo Varadkar had breached the code of conduct for office holders when he passed a confidential document to former NAPG president Maitiú Ó Tuathail. 

The now defunct NAGP union came into existence in 2013 but went into liquidation in 2019.

Feeney is listed on the State’s lobbying register as a former lobbyist who had lobbied on behalf of the NAGP in 2017 and 2018, including a meeting with now Taoiseach Micheál Martin in May 2017. 

In the Dáil on Tuesday, the Taoiseach said that ”notwithstanding” the current NAGP controversy Feeney’s appointment is “in line with the requirements of the legislation”.

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty described it as “breathtaking arrogance” that the government would not facilitate a debate on the appointment. He also queried whether Feeney had made all the necessary filings to Sipo. 

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Speaking to reporters on Tuesday morning, Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said that questions over Feeney’s lobbying in the past needed to be answered, particularly in light of the request to Sipo in relation to the NAGP.

“I would have thought that a great deal of care needs to be taken when people are being appointed to something like the Standards and Public Office Commission because that is the body that owns everybody else to account,” she said. 

“The very fact of lobbying had been done in relation to that organisation where there is a complaint already gone. I would have thought was it was going to be an obvious question that would have been asked.”

With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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