herald

Thursday 24 August 2017

Anger as alcohol campaigner lined up for RTE board

Fionnuala Sheehan: peer pressure has a strong influence on young people.
Fionnuala Sheehan: peer pressure has a strong influence on young people.

The nomination of the head of an alcohol-industry-funded group to RTE's governing body has plunged the Government into a new State board appointment controversy.

Communications Minister Alex White will decide "in due course" if the head of an alcohol awareness group will be appointed to the RTE Authority.

Fionnuala Sheehan, the chief executive of a Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society (MEAS), was last week recommended by an Oireachtas committee to be appointed to the board.

However, former government minister Rosin Shortall has called on Mr White, who was a junior minister with Ms Shortall in the Department of Health before she stepped down, not to approve her appointment.

Ms Shortall said that she felt it would be "wholly inappropriate that a representative of the alcohol industry should sit on the Board of the national broadcaster".

PROBLEM

"We continue to have a serious problem with alcohol in this country. No-one who approaches that problem from a public health perspective views MEAS as anything other than a representative of the alcohol industry," she said

Mr White's spokesperson said the minister had not yet received the recommendations by the Oireachtas Communications Committee and a decision would be made by February.

"The minister has not yet reviewed the nominations made to the RTE board by the Joint Oireachtas Committee.

"These nominations are for vacancies that are due to arise in February 2015, and appointments to fill these vacancies will be made in due course," the spokesperson said in a statement.

Ms Sheehan dismissed the remarks by Ms Shortall and denied she had a conflict of interest.

"I have already informed MEAS of my intention to step down and, in fact, my successor, Neil Gallagher, has already been announced," she told the Herald.

"Whatever about the claim of conflict of interest, there can be absolutely none as membership of the board doesn't commence until February 2015.

"I'm very proud of my work with MEAS, and in addition have 25 years experience in the civil and public service, as well as the commercial and private sector and higher education sector.

"I've also undertaken formal training in company directing and am very aware of the responsibilities required in terms of independence," she added.

Three other people were nominated for the board by the Oireachtas communications committee - Aer Arann founder Padraig O'Ceidigh, former RTE journalist and entrepreneur Margaret E Ward, and Economist Group chief financial officer Shane Naughton.

hnews@herald.ie

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