Inquiry may increase pressure on Fahey to quit

FRANK FAHEY will come under growing pressure later this month to resign from his junior ministry if an inquiry into a controversial compensation scheme for fishermen is critical of his role.

The report by Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly into alleged deficiencies in the Lost at Sea scheme is due to be published within the next two weeks.

The scheme was introduced by Mr Fahey in 2001, when he was the Minister for the Marine. It was designed to compensate fishing families for trawlers lost at sea. However, according to reports, two of the six families who benefited from the scheme were from Mr Fahey’s Galway West constituency. It has emerged that his two constituents were paid €2 million of the €2.8 million paid out under the scheme. In total, there were 69 unsuccessful applications.

Ms O’Reilly has previously described the scheme as “seriously deficient and flawed”.

Mr Fahey, now a junior minister in the Justice Department, has been the focus of intense media and political scrutiny over the past two months, relating to decisions he made as Marine Minister and also in relation to his business interests.

Mr Fahey had denied any impropriety and has contended that he is the victim of a sustained political campaign, orchestrated by individuals in his constituency.

Fresh claims were published in a newspaper yesterday in relation to the Minister’s role in the scheme.

Ireland on Sunday claimed it had uncovered documents which showed Mr Fahey had introduced the scheme notwithstanding objections from his own officials and had discussed it with his two constituents Paddy Mullen and Tony Faherty — both fishermen from the Aran Islands — four months before its introduction.

Green Party leader Trevor Sargent TD yesterday said that the latest reports “vindicated” the outspoken and direct personal criticism he made of Mr Fahey in the Dáil last month.

Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins, who first raised his concerns about the scheme with the Ombudsman, yesterday claimed the Taoiseach had taken no action.

“One would have imagined that the Taoiseach would have confronted Frank Fahey about the matter and have demanded answers from the minister regarding the scheme’s alleged irregularities,” he said.

Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins, who first raised his concerns about the scheme with the Ombudsman, yesterday claimed the Taoiseach had taken no action.

“One would have imagined that the Taoiseach would have confronted Frank Fahey about the matter and have demanded answers from the minister regarding the scheme’s alleged irregularities,” he said.

The retail chain is controlled by Mr Dunne’s sister Margaret Heffernan and brother Frank Dunne.

Mr Dunne approached Whelan Frozen Food in recent months stating that he would like to testify on its behalf in its case against Dunnes Stores, which is expected to last three weeks.

His court appearance is likely to provoke memories of his departure from Dunnes Stores following a row that saw three of his four siblings on the board of the company oust him as chief executive. The catalyst was an embarrassing 1992 drug bust in Florida and revelations of secret payments to Charles Haughey.

Dunnes has indicated that it no longer wishes for Whelans to supply it with various goods. Whelans was given a year’s notice in relation to chilled and frozen foods, but only six months’ notice for non-chilled and textiles, and is seeking a year’s notice for both.

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