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Coughlan’s failure to act symptom of wider malaise?

TO use a word she is particularly partial to, it would be “appropriate”, to say the least, if Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mary Coughlan took appropriate measures to convince the public that the profligacy over which the board of Fás presided would not be repeated.

Some months ago, an internal audit concluded that the level of expenditure and sense of entitlement of top-level Fás officials was “shocking”.

Further comment referred to “a failure of control and oversight” on the part of the board. Those comments couldn’t be any clearer or less ambiguous.

And what was the upshot? The chief executive takes early retirement with a golden handshake of more than €500,000. Now the board – appointed, among other things, to protect the public interest – stands further and more specifically indicted. The minister and Tánaiste does not consider it appropriate to remove the members. She does not even consider it appropriate to call publicly for their resignation.

When pushed really hard she concedes she would accept their resignations should they be offered. Instead she focuses her attention on “appropriate” steps to enact legislation which will change the operating structure of Fás.

Instead of holding people to account for their actions and inactions she considers it more appropriate to overlook malpractice and make a few structural changes than apparently hold out the prospect of reining in or preventing future malpractice. How strange.

Clearly, the Government, if not the country, has lost all moral compass. One wonders if the lapses and failures of the Fás board and officials are no more than par for the course across the entire spectrum of public life in Ireland? This would explain the reluctance to denounce behaviour which flies in the face of the most basic standards of probity and decency. Indeed, this seems to make more and more sense in the light of more recent disclosures of ministerial high living on the public purse. A case of people in glasshouses knowing the danger of throwing stones?

When the hard-pressed, much-abused taxpayers and tax-gatherers next visit the polls it is hoped they at least will know the appropriate steps to take so that the incoming power-holders are under no illusions as to what they can expect should they, like their predecessors, ever attempt to run the country like a private fiefdom.

Margaret Hickey



Co Cork


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