Tánaiste accused of running from scrutiny on trade mission

EDUCATION Minister Mary Coughlan was accused of running away from scrutiny by pressing ahead with her trade mission to America without rearranging her duties to the Dáil.

Fine Gael’s education spokesman Fergus O’Dowd said Ms Coughlan had all summer to reorganise the questions she was scheduled to take. He said the Tánaiste should have signalled that she would not be in the Dáil to fulfil the rota and answer for issues specific to her Department.

Each week ministers take turns to respond to questions on their portfolios. And on Wednesday the focus will be on education.

Mr O’Dowd has laid down two queries which are guaranteed to be addressed by some representative of the Cabinet. His colleague, Deirdre Clune, had put down another request for information.

Mr O’Dowd’s first related to the issue of the country’s top universities sanctioning allowances to senior academics without adhering to payment guidelines. The Public Accounts Committee examined this last week. Mr Dowd wanted to know when the Minister or her predecessors became aware of the problem and what was being done to recover the money.

Separately, the Louth deputy had asked for an account of the decision by the European Commission to block social funding to FÁS. He asked when would the EU audit on the money be completed and: “when it will be finally known whether any further public funds will need to be refunded.”

Ms Clune posed a query to find out if Ms Coughlan had any plans to introduce a system of awarding additional CAO points for maths.

A number of other queries related to Fás’s allocation of certificates, adult literacy and funding for Protestant schools. However, the rules of the Dáil do not guarantee that these will be reached or answered.


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