Joan Burton faces Dáil motion of no-confidence in David Begg controversy

Tánaiste Joan Burton will face a pre-election Dáil no-confidence motion next week after the David Begg political appointment affair continued to embroil her in controversy.

The Independent Alliance tabled the motion last night, saying the Labour leader’s decision to give the ex-trade unionist a lucrative State job is a return to Celtic Tiger “cronyism” and an insult to people living in poverty.

On Wednesday, the cabinet rubber-stamped the appointment of Mr Begg as the new national pensions authority chair for the next five years, a role that includes a €100,000-plus total pay packet. The decision was made after Ms Burton — who described Mr Begg as a “hard-working servant of the Labour movement” on his retirement as Irish Congress of Trade Unions secretary general last March — put his name forward without referring to the transparent public appointments process.

The Tánaiste’s spokesman has defended the decision as the public appointments system is allowed to be “flexible” when a person is put forward who is considered to be clearly able to do the job.

However, despite the claim and the ongoing support of Fine Gael and Labour cabinet members, the opposition has increasingly labelled the appointment as “cronyism” — with Ms Burton now set to be forced to defend herself from the criticism in the Dáil next week.

In a no-confidence motion tabled by Independent Alliance TDs Shane Ross, Finian McGrath, John Halligan, Michael Fitzmaurice and Tom Fleming, and due to be heard in the Dáil next Tuesday and Wednesday, the opposition group will say TDs have “no confidence in the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection”.

David Begg
David Begg

Speaking to the Irish Examiner last night, Mr McGrath and Mr Halligan said the alleged ‘cronyism’ appointment jars with the fact that one in 10 children are still going to school hungry and that the number of people living in consistent poverty has doubled to 11.7% in five years and that this is the reason it has been raised.

The TDs, who rejected suggestions the move is also to do with giving the Independent Alliance much-needed attention before the election, said the coalition’s 2011 election promises to end political cronyism now lies in tatters.

News of the motion came as Mr Begg told RTÉ Radio he has “no problem” declining the position despite saying he will not “bend and crack” at the first criticism. However, Government ministers Leo Varadkar, Paschal Donohue and Brendan Howlin continued to row in behind Ms Burton yesterday, saying she did nothing wrong.

Mr Howlin said Mr Begg is “highly regarded by every politician”, before adding: “Well maybe not one or two you could mention.”


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