FG: Committee must police agency to prevent ‘favours’

THE agency set up to absorb toxic bank debts should be controlled by an all-party committee to stop it “doing favours” for Fianna Fáil friends, the opposition said last night.

The National Assets Management Agency, which will buy up land deals once valued at e90 billion, will be in business by the summer, Tánaiste Mary Coughlan told the Dáil.

Fine Gael front bench spokesperson Alan Shatter said the agency should be accountable to an Oireachtas committee to ensure it is not under pressure to “do favours for friends of Fianna Fáil”. Mr Shatter also questioned whether the move to cut junior minister numbers would turn out to be a temporary “PR gimmick”.

As the Dáil debated the budget before breaking for Easter, he called on the Taoiseach to clarify the position. He claimed the reduction of junior ranks from 20 to 15 could be a “temporary little arrangement” in the run-up to June’s Euro and local elections.

“The number of ministers for state a Taoiseach can appoint is determined by an act of the Oireachtas.

“Existing legislation enacted whilst Bertie Ahern was Taoiseach permits the appointment of up to 20 such ministers. If the Government is serious about this reform it would introduce amending legislation to restrict for the future the number of such appointments to 15.”

Enterprise Minister John McGuinness, who was in hot water recently for saying Brian Lenihan “made a bags” of October’s budget, has strongly defended this week’s emergency measures.

He said tough decisions had to be taken in order to re-balance public finances over the next five years.


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