Former trade union leader David Begg has defended his appointment as chairman of a State board, saying his €20,500-a year pay for the role is “not a crock of gold”.
The former ICTU general secretary also confirmed to the Irish Examiner that he is considering running as an Independent for the Seanad.
Mr Begg said he had been approached about becoming chairman of the Pensions Authority, a position which pays around €100,000 over a five-year period.
There has been criticism of his appointment, made directly by Tánaiste Joan Burton this week, which did not involve an appointments process or it being advertised.
Instead, Ms Burton, in her capacity as Social Protection Minister, used a little-known clause in public appointment rules to appoint Mr Begg.
Lack of transparency about the appointment, as well as Mr Begg’s previous support for Labour as a trade union leader, has led to charges of “cronyism”.
Mr Begg strongly disputes this. “I didn’t seek it, I was asked to do it, a month or six weeks ago. I said at the time I wasn’t expecting it.”
Ms Burton’s office says rules are “flexible” on appointing board chairs and allow ministers to directly appoint “high qualified” people, thereby bypassing the appointment service.
Mr Begg added: “I have a job. I’m a director of TASC, chairman of Barnardos.”
He said Opposition claims he received the post as a “Labour favour” were “not valid”, adding: “I didn’t seek it, I’m otherwise occupied anyhow. It’s not a crock of gold in terms of what’s in it.”
He said he believed the annual pay for the job was €11,970, from its most recent report, as opposed to €20,500 as stated by the Government.
“This amounts to about €45,000 when everything is taken by the State,” he said, adding he had yet to receive his letter of appointment.
“It’s not an easy job either. If I wanted to get a nice job, I could have.”
Separately, he said that he is considering running as an Independent candidate in the Seanad elections.
“It’s something I’m thinking about. I haven’t made any decisions yet, but I would not be a Labour party candidate.” If he does run, Mr Begg said he would seek election as an NUI candidate.
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