Cabinet reshuffle: We need to select the right people

Enda Kenny

The biggest political topic of this week is inevitably going to be the Cabinet reshuffle.

The prime consideration in all appointments should be talent and ability — not geography, gender, or political patronage. The Taoiseach should appoint the most able people available to each ministerial position.

Prior to the last general election, Fine Gael castigated Fianna Fáil for selecting Cabinet members on the basis of political loyalty rather than talent, and they promised to end the old-style politics.

After coming to power in March 2011, Enda Kenny announced that vacancies on the boards of state-funded bodies would be advertised to help attract new talent and end cronyism. It sounded good.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, whose department has the best record in adhering to the new approach, has claimed the Government has done “a hell of a lot” in implementing the new system, but he acknowledged more ought to be done. Indeed, a great deal more will have to be done to demonstrate that the promised reforms were not just a political ruse to fool the people into thinking that things have really changed.

Of the 1,300 positions filled in the past three years, only 28% were publicly advertised in advance. Just 33 of the 116 positions that Minister James Reilly filled within the Department of Health were advertised.

None of the 22 positions filled by Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin were advertised. Ironically, he ignored the procedure in selecting 14 people for the Appointment Service Board that was set up to centralise the advertising of such positions. That board is supposed to “check over” all people before they are appointed to state boards.

Mr Howlin contended that his scope was “limited” by the process that required the board be representative of its client base and thus made up of civil servants and union representatives. Surely this should not preclude advertising the positions in order to invite all the eligible people interested to declare their interest.

Within the Government itself, it is generally assumed most members of government parties are interested in ministerial positions. Ruairí Quinn is an exception in eliminating himself. Nobody doubts his talents, or experience. He did a particularly credible job as minister for finance in helping to lead this country out of the recession of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Mr Quinn has been widely commended for putting party loyalty before personal considerations in standing down to make room for the new party leader to reward younger talent. But surely the interests of the country should supersede party considerations.

Good government demands the best talent available. Government should be judged on its record, not some vague promises of unfulfilled potential. Thus, this Government still has time to demonstrate its potential. What we need now is credible performance.

Greyhound board: Very costly mistakes

A comprehensive report suggests the Irish Greyhound Board will not be able to repay its restructured bank loans, as its performance has failed to match its forecasts.

The board has been given until the end of September to draw up plans to implement the recommendations of international economic consultants, Indecon.

The IGB has been mired in controversy since it decided to go ahead with the construction of a new headquarters and track in Limerick in April 2009. This decision was taken on the basis of “very optimistic” assumptions, despite the effect that the declining economy was having on tracks.

Indecon noted that ominous early trading figures for 2009 were already available, but those were ignored. Of course, greyhound racing was not the only area in which those in control were blinded by overly optimistic financial projections.

The report also highlights a large number of positive drug tests that have been ignored within the industry. Such doping seriously threatens the reputation of greyhound racing in this country.

The current IGB obviously inherited serious problems that needed to be addressed. Those have not yet been adequately tackled, so it must now share responsibility for the mess.


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