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Conflict of Interest

Minister's driver resigns from Irish Water

It emerged today that Paudie Coffey has hired an Irish Water board member as his personal driver.

Updated 4.30pm 

THE TAOISEACH HAS confirmed that Hilary Quinlan has resigned from the board of Irish Water.

Enda Kenny made the comments in the Dáil this afternoon.

Irish Water also verified the news, with a spokeswoman telling TheJournal.ie that the organisation had accepted his resignation.

Today the Irish Times reported that Paudie Coffey, the Junior Minister at the Department of the Environment, is paying Quinlan €665 a week to act as his persnoal driver.

Earlier Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin claimed there was no conflict between Hilary Quinlan being on the board of Irish Water and serving as Coffey’s driver.

Quinlan, a former Fine Gael councillor in Waterford, is paid an annual fee of €15,000 for sitting on the board of Irish Water, a role to which he was appointed last November.

Howlin told reporters this afternoon: “I can’t think that there would be a conflict between exercising the role as a member of a board and driving a minister.

 ”Are you concerned that they might be discussing board policy in the car? I don’t think that that would be the case.”

Resignation call

The appointment was approved by then-Environment Minister Phil Hogan. This morning, Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen called on Quinlan to resign.

Cowen said that there was “an obvious conflict of interest” and urged Quinlan to resign from the board “straight away”.

Fianna Fáil’s Spokesperson on the Environment said that his party would raise the issue in the Dáil “if needs be”.

Cowen stressed that Quinlan’s role as Coffey’s driver “compromises his position” with Irish Water.

“This decision is not one that is in keeping with the democratic revolution that was promised [by Fine Gael in the run up to the 2011 General Election],” he added.

Looking after their own

Quinlan told the Irish Times that he didn’t see any problem in holding both roles, noting:

You tell me one party out there who doesn’t look after their own. I don’t see anything wrong with it. It’s politics.

TheJournal.ie has contacted Coffey, a former Senator, and the Department of the Environment for comment.

- additional reporting from Hugh O’Connell 

First published 1.20pm 

Read: State of the Nation: Yet another Irish Water controversy for Fine Gael…

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