Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Membership of Local Authorities.

John Bruton

Question:

3 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach his views on whether it is good practice for members of the Cabinet to be simultaneously members of local authorities.

I believe it is desirable that, as soon as practicable, Ministers should resign from membership of local authorities.

Will the Taoiseach confirm that for the past 18 months the Minister for Energy has been a member not only of two local authorities but also a member of five subcommittees of local authorities? Will he further confirm that prior to the general election the Progressive Democrats made much of the need for politicians to lead by example? I have here a copy of the Progressive Democrats' policy document in which one section is headed, "Leading by Example".

A display of that kind is not in order, Deputy Bruton, especially at Question Time.

I stand corrected. Does the Taoiseach agree that the Progressive Democrats are not leading by example in this instance, that the Minister for Energy, Deputy Bobby Molloy, is giving very bad example by continuing to be a member of Galway Corporation and Galway County Council and that this form of double jobbing is scandalous? The Minister for Energy should either decide to be a member of the Cabinet or a member of Galway County Council. Does the Taoiseach not agree that some people may think the Minister for Energy would be more suitable as a member of Galway County Council but that he should at least make up his mind on the matter?

A speech is not in order.

I am afraid that is very petty. I want to say very firmly and categorically that Deputy Molloy is an excellent Minister for Energy. He performs his duties in that Department very satisfactorily and has a major number of projects in hands. As Head of the Government, I am very satisfied with his performance as Minister for Energy.

I did not ask a question about the Minister for Energy's performance of his functions; I asked about his continuance as a member of Galway Corporation and Galway County Council. Will the Taoiseach state whether it is good or bad example for him to continue as a member of Galway Corporation and Galway County Council?

I do not know if we should start talking in this House about good and bad example. My view is that Ministers should, as soon as they can, resign from local authorities. That is the position. Deputy Bruton implied that somehow or other Deputy Molloy's membership of these local bodies was interfering with his capacity to discharge his duties as Minister for Energy. That is why I want to put it on the record that that is not so. Deputy Molloy is a competent, efficient, active, dedicated and committed Minister for Energy. As I said, he is handling a number of very important briefs in that Department at present and I am quite satisfied with his work. That is my primary responsibility in the matter.

Would the Taoiseach not agree that there is a danger of a conflict——

I hope the Deputy is not going to be parochial about this issue.

I will not, we have been through this before. Will the Taoiseach not agree that there is a danger of a serious conflict of interest arising for a member of the Government being a member of two local authorities and, as Deputy Bruton said, a member of five subsidiary boards, Galway Harbour Board, the Joint Committee for the Settling of Travellers, Coiste na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachtaí, the Sheep Dipping Committee, the Renville Park Committee, the Leisureland Board and the Lough Corrib Navigation Trustees Board?

The Deputy seems to be imparting information rather than seeking it. Will the Deputy please come to the point and be very careful lest he reflect upon the integrity or character of a Member of this House? If charges are to be made they should be made in a proper fashion by way of a motion.

Nothing but facts have been stated.

I have had to contend with this before.

I did not make any charges whatsoever. As the Taoiseach said, the Minister is a very busy and responsible man. Does the Taoiseach not believe it would be in the national interest to ask the Minister to resign from those seven subsidiary bodies and the two local authorities in case a conflict of interest arises? I am on two of the local authorities with the Minister.

The Deputy has made his point and it is not in order for him to go on like this.

I know where the conflict of interest arises, and I have evidence of it.

The Deputy said he has evidence.

I am on the same local authorities as the Minister.

The Deputy ought to afford the person an opportunity of defending himself.

I wish he was here.

Why is he not here?

He was here the last day this matter was discussed but he left.

As a Member of this House he should be here.

I admonish the Deputy to be careful about impugning the character of a person. It is a matter for a motion in this House.

I seem to detect an atmosphere that this is bash Bobby Molloy day. If it is any consolation to Deputy McCormack, I will see if I can persuade the Minister to resign from the Sheep Dipping Committee.

I want to go on to another question.

I dare say the Taoiseach will have no more success in that than he has had in any of his other dealings with Deputy Molloy.

Deputy J. Mitchell rose.

Deputy Mitchell, it has to be a very brief question as I am going on to the next question.

It might be better if the Taoiseach got him to withdraw from the Fianna Fáil dipping committee. Would the Taoiseach outline to the House the steps he has taken to communicate his view to his Ministers and Ministers of State that they should resign from the local authorities of which they are members, and if he has received any response from them?

They are well aware of my views.

And ignored them.