Minister defends employing four family members

A JUNIOR Government Minister has defended employing four members of his family whose wages were paid by the State.

Michael Finneran, a Fianna Fáil TD for Roscommon-South Leitrim, has listed his wife, his brother, his son and his daughter as his staff members since becoming Minister for Housing in May.

This was revealed in the Dáil yesterday by Fine Gael TD, Fergus O’Dowd, who questioned if this situation was appropriate.

Mr Finneran retaliated by accusing Mr O’Dowd of “gutter politics” and trying to smear him and his family.

Mr Finneran said three of these staff were employed in the same role at different times.

His brother, Brendan Finneran, was appointed as his driver when he became Minister of State in May, earning €651 per week until he had an accident in July.

The position of driver was then taken up for 11 days by the deputy’s daughter, who had just finished college. His son is now doing the job.

“One was just finished college and the other gave up work for a temporary period which he thought was eight or 10 weeks,” he said.

Mr Finneran’s wife works for him for a salary of €30,215. “Since 1989 when I first went into the Oireachtas first, my wife Elizabeth has been my constituency secretary. They only got paid — and she only got paid — since March 2005, that’s when that remuneration came in. Prior to that she worked without payment. She has been there for 20 years as my personal secretary,” he told RTÉ radio.

“When I became a minister, I appointed one member of my family as one of my drivers and unfortunately he had an accident and broke his ankle. While the matter is being dealt with medically two of my family helped out in a matter of weeks, one for 11 days. And this man goes out to smear me,” he said.

Mr O’Dowd had said there should be a fair and open competition for all positions.

But Mr Finneran said: “Who would work for nothing from 1989 to 2005 other than someone who is close to you such as your wife? I think that somebody that’s available from the family such as my brother who was able to take over as my driver when I became Minister of State, I think he’s a very appropriate person. He’s loyal to me and would be loyal to me in the business.”

A fifth of all TDs employ a relative who is paid by the State while a tenth of Senators have relatives working for them.

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