21 July 2005

Consumer bodies see red over Celia's new job

Irish Independent

Isn't this special???

Ms Larkin has insisted she has the necessary skills and experience - **Yes, I bet she has...

THE controversy over Celia Larkin's nomination by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to a State board brought fresh calls yesterday for the setting up of an independent body to make such appointments.

And the Consumers' Association of Ireland (CAI) stepped up its criticism of the appointment of the Taoiseach's former partner to the interim board of the National Consumer Agency, saying this was done at the expense of one of its representatives.

It said its work on behalf of consumers should have entitled it to a place on the board. The Government said on Tuesday that at least five of the 12 board members are closely linked to consumer groups. Green Party leader Trevor Sargent led the campaign for the setting up of an independent Public Appointments Commission "to, at minimum, assess appointments to State boards".

"In the past, successive governments have used the practice to reward party supporters, many of whom have little or no expertise. It is equally unfair to leave a competent person open to a charge of political cronyism by appointing a person in this manner," he said.

"We believe it is time to end the practice and hand the job over to an independent body. There are many able leaders, not only in the private sector but also at non-governmental organisation and civil society level who would make excellent contributions to State boards but who are denied because of the present unfair system."

Mr Sargent said he was extremely disappointed that the CAI, "which has represented consumer interests in Ireland for nearly 40 years", had no representative on the new National Consumer Agency.

"Effectively, this has now left a political cuckoo in the new NCA nest. The system is old-fashioned, archaic and rightly open to charges of political cronyism. . . . the Green Party want to ensure appointments are open, transparent and independent of political interference."

Mr Sargent said that before the cabinet reshuffle in late September last year there were reports that six ministers rewarded supporters with nearly 60 State posts before they were moved or left Cabinet jobs.

The original 12-member interim board was named by Enterprise, Trade and Employment Minister Micheal Martin on June 6.

But it was only a fortnight ago that Mr Ahern made the nomination from the Taoiseach's Department.

Ms Larkin has insisted she has the necessary skills and experience.

Gene McKenna
Political Editor

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