herald

Thursday 17 January 2019

Andrew Lynch: If Kenny can't control his TDs and stop family hiring, how can he sort labour reforms?

Well, at least nobody can say this Government doesn't know how to create jobs. Richard Bruton continues to exist that cutting the wages of low-paid workers will help to shorten the dole queues.

Now it turns out that many of his Government colleagues have decided to take a much more direct route -- and put members of their own families on the Government payroll.

The hypocrisy is breathtaking. During the general election campaign, both Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore repeatedly promised to stamp out the cronyism that has destroyed our banking sector and plunged the country into economic ruin.

Now the same 'jobs for the boys' mentality is going on under their very noses -- and they apparently have no intention of doing anything about it.

When you're elected a TD, you don't just get a basic salary of over €90,000. You also have the chance to give several other people a ticket on the Oireachtas gravy train, with new staff to be appointed in both your constituency and Leinster House offices.

In theory, every appointee has to be vetted by an external HR company -- but, in practice, a politician can nearly always get the candidate they choose themselves.

A new survey has found that of the Dail's 166 TDs, at least 25 have seen fit to hire blood relations as secretaries, drivers or personal assistants.

As is so often the case, the politicians who preach the loudest also turn out be the ones with the necks like a jockey's you-know-what. Just a few weeks ago, Ciaran Cannon pledged that FG would "fix our political system and sweep away the culture of cronyism".

The training and skills minister has now decided that charity begins at home by handing a secretarial job (worth between €23,000 and €47,000) to his wife and a civilian driver's post (€35,000) to his brother-in-law.

Although only political anoraks remember it now, Cannon was briefly the final leader of the late and unlamented Progressive Democrats. During that time, he promised that the party would stage "a big comeback" and declared that having Brian Cowen as Taoiseach was "going to be very beneficial".

His squeaky-clean image was enhanced by the revelation that he played the organ for a local church choir ("Ciaran will bring an extra dimension to your wedding ceremony -- give him a call and see if he is available" says the Wedding Ireland website). With over 440,000 people now unemployed, it's good to know that the job of retraining Ireland's workforce is in safe hands.

Cannon and his fellow employers will naturally plead that they are only following a proud Leinster House tradition that has been going on for generations. This, of course, is exactly the problem.

The FG-Labour coalition was elected partly on the promise that it would be whiter-than-white on issues of public morality -- and to see that change so quickly is just more depressing evidence that this new lot are much the same as the last lot.

Today's revelations are also a direct challenge to the authority of the FG and Labour leaders themselves.

Enda Kenny is already under pressure to control foot-in-mouth ministers who cannot stop blabbing about policies before they have been officially agreed. Eamon Gilmore will be reminded that it is just a few weeks since he directly ordered his TDs not to hire family members or put them on their vacated council seats.

If Kenny and Gilmore cannot put manners on their own foot-soldiers, it is hard to see how they can push through the vital labour reforms that they claim are necessary to get the country back to work.

Sadly, we're not all lucky enough to be related to a TD. Most people are still willing to give this Government a chance -- but for now it appears to be a case of 'meet the new boss, same as the old boss'.

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