Jobbery, the term given to politicians giving their associates plum jobs paid for by the public purse has long been a mainstay in Irish politics – Fine Gael’s Oliver J Flanagan explicitly confirmed this to be the case on RTE television’s “The Late Late Show” in 1968* And one of the ways governments distribute their quasi-corrupt largesse is through the creation of so-called quangos – “quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations” – which they then stuff with their buddies, perhaps in return for anticipated or past political contributions or support. Of course quangos can and generally do provide a service of utility for the nation, and it isn’t often that you come across a totally useless quango, but given their political dependence, they are all subject to malodorous suspicions.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise that the evidence (so far) is that there have been very few new quangos created by this Government since it came to office at the start of March 2011. Late last month, the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams asked a series of questions** of ministers and An Taoiseach asking them to provide details of quangos created since 9th March 2011. The results (so far) come as a pleasant surprise and indicate that only 8 new quangos have been created and some of these replace pre-existing quangos. It should be said that embattled Minister for Health James Reilly has provided a holding response, saying the information is being collated and will be provided in due course. Three ministers appear not to have responded to the question (assuming they were asked) – transport minister Leo Varadkar, childrens minister Frances FitzGerald and Tanaiste/foreign affairs minister Eamon Gilmore.
Here’s the list by Department
Some ministers were a little circumspect in their responses. Minister Noonan has created a NAMA advisory board with an annual budget of €40,000 but he seems to have had a case of the michaellowrys when giving his response. And the Local Government Management Agency, although an amalgamation of two pre-existing quangos, the Local Government Management Services Board and the Local Government Computer Services Board, it’s manpower and budget are now mostly focused on collecting the new household charge.
Whilst the number of new quangos created comes as a pleasant surprise – though remember Minister James Reilly has a bottomless well to disappoint and shock and he still hasn’t responded to the question – it remains the case that the Government continues to stuff their supporters into positions on existing quangos, without open competition or advertising – a year ago, Irish Times journalist Paul Cullen listed 21 party-sympathisers who had been appointed to quangos in just the first eight months of this administration.
*The one-time Independent TD from Laois/Offaly who was a Fine Gael deputy at the time, told Gay Bryne “my Party does not believe in jobbery but I am a firm and convinced believer in it. I do not see anything wrong in a TD getting a job for a friend. I have found jobs over the past 25 years for numerous people from Laois-Offaly and Dublin and any time I hear Fianna Fail being criticised for putting their friends into jobs, I am angered because I am not in the same position to put my friends into jobs” His Party colleagues including then-senator Garret FitzGerald disowned the comments on behalf of Fine Gael.
**The questions were in the form [To ask the Minister] “if he will provide in a tabular form a list of quasi-governmental organisations and agencies that have been created since 9 March 2011;the date on which the body was created; the name of the body; the 2012 budget for the body; the number of employees of the body and if the body engages manpower resources from outside the body” The responses were given around 23rd October 2012.