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Nomination of ex-FF Senator and NAGP lobbyist to Sipo labelled 'outrageous' by opposition

Geraldine Feeney is listed as having lobbied on behalf of the now defunct doctor’s union.

The senator Geraldine Feeney pictured in 2009.
The senator Geraldine Feeney pictured in 2009.
Image: RollingNews.ie

OPPOSITION POLITICIANS have labelled as “truly outrageous” that a former lobbyist for the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) is being nominated for a position on the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo). 

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

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.

In the Dáil today, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty TD raised questions over Feeney’s appointment to Sipo and asked whether it be debated in the house. 

Doherty said that one of the two vacancies on Sipo must be filled by a former member of the Oireachtas and that Feeney “meets that criteria”.

“I am sure the Tánaiste is aware – maybe he can tell us whether he is so aware – that Ms Feeney is not just a former Oireachtas member,” Doherty said. 

“She also became a professional lobbyist. There is a question as to whether it is appropriate for a motion to be brought before the house, without debate, asking it to appoint not only a former member of the Oireachtas but also a professional lobbyist to Sipo.”

There is another issue. Ms Geraldine Feeney in her role as a lobbyist only ever lobbied for the NAGP. Her eight returns to the Standards in Public Office Commission show that. The Tánaiste is aware that there is a complaint relating to his conduct on which Sipo will have to adjudicate.

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. 

Feeney had been a member of Seanad Éireann from 2002-2011. 

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In a tweet this afternoon, Rise TD Murphy said that the government should withdraw the nomination. 

In response to Doherty’s query in the Dáil today, Varadkar said that the nomination of Feeney comes on the advice of Fianna Fáil Minister for Public Michael McGrath.

“The idea of having a former politician on SIPO is to have somebody who has a working understanding of the work we do as politicians. I believe it was Mr. Jim O’Keeffe in the past and it is now proposed to be Ms Geraldine Feeney,” Varadkar said. 

The Tánaiste added that whether or not her nomination would be debated in the Dáil was a matter for the Business Committee.   

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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