Environment Minister Phil Hogan’s expected nomination as Ireland’s EU commissioner in Brussels has been questioned after a number of controversial appointments he made to State bodies.
Sinn Féin highlighted his appointment of seven former Fine Gael and Labour politicians to State boards, as well as an official to the planning authority, An Bord Pleanála.
Party leader Gerry Adams told the Dáil that the controversial appointments raised questions about Mr Hogan’s suitability as a candidate to represent Ireland in Brussels.
Mr Adams said that a former technical director with RPS Consulting Engineers was appointed as a deputy chairperson to an Bord Pleanála.
This company had framed some controversial projects which had come before the planning authority, he said.
Using Dáil privilege, Mr Adams continued: “This individual voted to approve contentious projects on which RPS Group was a consultant, which had been rejected by An Bord Pleanála inspectors. These include an apartment development in Dún Laoghaire and a sewage treatment scheme in Co Donegal. He also approved a controversial wind farm at Cullenagh, Co Laois. These clearly raise questions of a conflict of interest.”
Responding to the claims, Taoiseach Enda Kenny claimed that the Coalition had changed the process of State appointments by requiring people to apply.
But Mr Adams criticised Mr Hogan’s actions. He also said that any appointment to Europe needed to be scrutinised by the Oireachtas.
While Mr Hogan is favourite to be nominated as Ireland’s next EU commissioner, no decision has been made yet.
Mr Kenny’s spokesman said last night that the Taoiseach also had yet to have a conversation with Commission president-designate Jean-Claude Juncker about Ireland’s nomination.
Meanwhile, Mr Kenny yesterday said that he was “very concerned” about escalating problems in the North. His comments follow a withdrawal of unionists from peace talks in the North.
Discussions on parades, flags and the past broke down in a row over a Parades Commission ruling.
Mr Kenny said he had spoken to Prime Minister David Cameron about the issue in recent days and said there was a need for the two governments to be “vigilant” and to have “contingency plans”.
He also said he had kept officials in the United States up to date on matters.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called on the two governments to set out a framework for talks to resume and an agenda for all sides in the North.
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