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Taoiseach defends nomination of former Senator and ex-NAGP lobbyist Geraldine Feeney to Sipo

Opposition parties have criticised the government for not facilitating a debate on the nomination.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the Dáil today.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the Dáil today.
Image: Oireachtas.ie

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has defended the government’s nomination of former Senator and ex-NAGP lobbyist Geraldine Feeney to a position on the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo).

A motion to approve Feeney’s appointment will be put before the Dáil tomorrow night.

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

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

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. 

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

Feeney had been a member of Seanad Éireann from 2002-2011 and Martin defended his former colleague today, saying some of the comments made about her nomination were regrettable.   

“She is a competent person who acted with integrity at all times and I regret some of the comments that have been made in respect of the former Senator, I don’t think that’s merited,” he said.

And people are not debarred from serving on the commission because of one particular issue one particular time. She is eligible, she has experienced as a public and the people who served with her in the Seanad would accept her fairness and integrity.

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 in the Seanad earlier today, Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan said that no representative should accept the lack of debate on the appointment. 

“The Sinn Féin Seanad team pushed the issue to a vote. But Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Green Senators combined to prevent any debate on the issue,” he said.

“This is of course yet another example of the cosy insider club that operates across the body politic.”

Speaking to reporters this 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 organization 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.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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