Fianna Fáil members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social and Family Affairs yesterday joined with opposition deputies in unanimously passing a resolution urging Minister Mary Hanafin to save the body.
The 22-year-old agency’s future has been in doubt since a review carried out by the Office of Social Inclusion within the minister’s department recommended last month that it be subsumed into that office.
The advisory agency, which has been openly critical of the Government’s record on poverty reduction, has argued such a move would effectively mean its dismantling, as it could no longer operate as an independent body as required by law.
It has also argued that if any changes had to be made to the agency, it should be located with other independent think-tanks, such as the National Economic and Social Council and National Centre for Partnership and Performance, within the National Economic and Social Development Office.
Yesterday’s resolution by the committee, which followed a 90 minute question and answer session with representatives from the agency, backed that move, citing the need to “safeguard its independence into the future“.
The agency’s acting director, Kevin O’Kelly, said the exchange had been extremely useful: “We very much welcome the resolution and support” he said.
The minister is expected to make a decision on its future in 12 days time.