Brendan Byrne, a Fianna Fáil member of Donegal County Council, said he will not be accepting the payment due to him as a member to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) or any expenses for attending meetings.
The appointment of political associates by outgoing ministers ahead of the general election was recently criticised by Fine Gael but Ms Coughlan’s spokesperson refused to comment on the announcement of Mr Byrne as one of eight new HEA appointments.
Mr Byrne is a Donegal South West constituent of the education minister and said he has known her for many years, but he thinks it is populist for other parties to question such appointments.
“Just because you know someone and get appointed to something, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a contribution to make. I feel I have a contribution to make and I am willing to do it for nothing, it’s a personal choice,” he said.
“I’m not naive and I don’t expect anybody to follow me but perhaps others will. It’s time we go back to working for the community and getting Ireland back together and that’s my motivation,” said Mr Byrne.
He said his St Patrick’s Day trip to Chicago and New York while he was mayor of Donegal last year saved the county council around €10,000 as he paid for the trip himself. The cost of attending HEA meetings in Dublin may be up to €70 in train fares every time, but he said he wants to address issues like low college attendance rates from areas like west Donegal and ways distance learning can be provided for second-chance students.
Mr Byrne is also a member of the County Donegal Vocational Education Committee, which he chaired in 2005, and is on the boards of second level schools in his native Carrick and in Killybegs.
The Irish Federation of University Teachers said it was disappointed that Ms Coughlan did not put its nominee on the HEA, although it was pleased at the inclusion of more serving academics than on previous boards.
The other appointees include Dublin Institute of Technology research director Dr Ellen Hazelkorn, Disability Federation Ireland chief executive John Dolan, UCC dean of arts Dr Maeve Conrick and academics from IT Sligo, Queen’s University Belfast and Amsterdam University College.