1 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the files which were released recently by his Department under the National Archives Act 1986; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1022/04]
Vol. 581 No. 3
1 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the files which were released recently by his Department under the National Archives Act 1986; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1022/04]
2 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the number of files withheld by his Department from the National Archive in respect of 1973; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1026/04]
3 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach the files transferred to the National Archives in respect of 1973; the number of files withheld under section 8 (4)(a) of the National Archives Act 1986; the number withheld under section 8(4)(b); the number withheld under section 8(4)(c); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1191/04]
4 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the number of files for 1973 in his Department released to the National Archives under the 30-year rule; the number withheld; and the subject matter of the files withheld. [1579/04]
5 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach the number of files in respect of 1973 withheld by his Department from the National Archives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3708/04]
6 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach the number of the National Archives files in respect of 1973 which have been withheld by his Department; the subject matter of the files withheld; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5657/04]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, together.
The evaluating of files for release to the National Archives is carried out by designated officials in my Department. I have no role in that process. It is usual, as files are processed for release each year, that some are certified by the appropriate official for retention on the grounds set forth in the Act. I am informed that the number of files certified in this way in respect of the January 2004 release was six. In all, a total of 720 files or file parts were transferred to the National Archives by my Department to be released for public inspection on 1 January 2004.
Of the six files retained, one file was retained under section 8(4)(a) of the Act, four were retained under sections 8(4)(b) and (c) and one under section 8(2) of the Act. It is also the responsibility of the statutorily designated officials to determine the particular subsection in accordance with which files are certified for retention.
The National Archives contains information on myriad topics relating to the past 30 years. I note that one file concerns a paper presented by Defence Forces intelligence which prepared a confidential document entitled, Military Implications of Ireland's entry to the EEC. That document predicted that the future development of the then EEC would result in the adoption of a common security or defence policy. It stated that no country can realistically hope to participate in all the activities and benefits of the Community and withhold her contribution in this one field. With the benefit of the passing of 30 years of history, will the Taoiseach comment on this?
In the context of a European constitution with which the Taoiseach is attempting to grapple, we are moving towards a common defence and security entity becoming a reality. Does he consider that as a member of the European Union, Ireland should participate in the discussions that will lead to the setting up of that architecture, whatever it may be, rather than standing idly by and having agreement reached on some form of common security and defence entity without any participation by this country in those discussions or on its make-up?
This has nothing to do with the National Archives Act 1986 or the release of papers under the 30-year rule. However, if Deputy Kenny wants a short reply, under the discussions on a European constitution, which took place following the Convention, we did engage in discussion. The paper Deputy Kenny discussed from the archives is the old paper from the Cold War period. I have no comment to make on that. Thankfully, those times are long gone. The Deputy can take it that we will participate in the discussions on a common foreign security and defence policy as we go forward, but it is not relevant.
Can I ask another question?
Not on the same line. The Deputy has gone well outside the scope of Questions Nos. 1 to 6.
I did not hear all of the Taoiseach's reply due to the noise of Members leaving the Chamber. Will he repeat the outline of the contents of the documents withheld from public access and the reasons for this?
As I understand it, one was withheld under section 8(4)(a) of the Act; four were withheld under subsections (b) and (c) and; one was withheld under section 8(2). The ground for retention under section 8(4)(a) is public interest; the ground in 8(4)(b) relates to information obtained in confidence; and section 8(4)(c) relates to the stress or danger of defamation. Section 8(2) relates to where a file or files are in regular use in a Department and their transfer to the National Archives would seriously interfere with the administration of the Department. The latter case is rarely used. Perhaps one file a year is retained on that basis.
Some 720 files were released this year and only four were withheld. The grounds for retention always relate to security grounds or where information has been given in confidence, which is the case with all four files retained on this occasion.
Will the Taoiseach explain the validation process for documents transferred to the National Archives? Is it the Secretary General of each Department who stamps whatever documents are transferred? Who makes the final call on files that may or may not be transferred? I ask this in the context of the Barron report on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in regard to documents due to be released next year. Unfortunately some files are inexplicably absent.
I saw the Taoiseach give evidence before the House sub-committee on that grave issue. I do not know if he has any reason to believe that any of the files missing, particularly those from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, are likely to be found, mislaid or misfiled or if there is any explanation for how files on such a critically important issue are not available.
The current position in my Department, which I think is the same as in other Departments, is that certifying officers are in charge of the process. In my Department there are four certifying officers, all of at least principal officer grade, as required by the Act. I am told that other Departments have similar arrangements. The names of certifying officers are published in the annual report of the director of the National Archives. The procedure for many years has been that all files are handed over to the National Archives unless there is a security content.
On the issue of the files referred to in the Barron report, I said in the past that I understood investigations took place in Departments. I said this in the House and before the sub-committee. I probably should not have used the word "investigations". I do not think there was much investigation. This took place a long time ago and there is confusion as to whether the files ever existed. That seems to be the argument. Whatever files exist will be put in the public domain. It leaves a lot to be desired about how things were done during that period. I find it difficult to obtain clear answers as to whether the files ever existed and if they did not exist, why people said they did in the first place. It seems an extraordinary period when loggings of the records were there but there is no clarity as to the actual existence of the files. References suggest that they may have been added to other files, but it is not clear. As I said in the House previously and to the sub-committee, this is an undesirable position. That applies both to the Garda files and those of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
Am I to understand from the Taoiseach's last response that he is now wrestling with the possibility that the files that have gone missing might not have existed at all, despite statements on record to the effect that they existed and have gone missing? In my question, I purposely asked the Taoiseach to outline the subject matter of the files withheld, but he has not done so in his reply. He indicated that six files were retained under a range of sections. Will he outline their subject matter, in line with the practice of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is one of the few Departments that outlines the subject matter of files withheld?
Given that a number of files in the list of files that other Departments, including the Department of Foreign Affairs, have withheld related to incidents in Border counties, do any of the files withheld by the Taoiseach's Department relate to similar matters, such as the damage to property in Cavan caused by the British Army in 1973? This is one of the indications in the withholding note of the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Department of Defence issued newspaper cuttings recently about the Littlejohn brothers. Given that the Taoiseach's former colleague and former Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, had been briefed on the Littlejohn affair——
The Deputy does not have to discuss the files in detail.
If I finish my sentence, it will become apparent that my question is in order. Are any of the files withheld now or previously by the Department of the Taoiseach relevant to the issues I have directly alluded to, particularly given that these people were involved in clandestine activities on this side of the Border?
Given the renewed focus on collusion, can the Taoiseach tell us if relevant files in his Department have been withheld recently or otherwise that would shed more light on all the various areas of collusion that have been raised and addressed in this House, not only in recent times? Will the Taoiseach now consider this given the importance of the full exposure of whatever detail he may have at hand?
Deputy Ó Caoláin has asked me a number of questions. The procedure in my Department and others is that officials decide what is released under the National Archives Act. As I said, the policy is to release as much as possible. One will see from the figures that this was the case this year and every year. A total of 720 files or parts of files were transferred to the National Archives this year and only six were withheld. I do not see those files and I have no call regarding what is released, but I am given information on the sections of the Act under which the files are withheld.
As I stated, the six files were retained under section 8(4)(a), (b) and (c), which state that an officer may certify that making files available for inspection by the public would be contrary to the public interest, might constitute a breach of statutory duty on the grounds that they contain information obtained in confidence or might cause distress or danger. I am told that almost all the retained files were withheld on security grounds and concerned information given in confidence. The names of the files are not given because this would identify the individuals in question. They are not the subject matter.
Allow the Taoiseach to continue without interruption.
He is inviting me——
Deputy Ó Caoláin is entitled to contribute only when the Chair calls him.
Other Departments do.
My Department could release a file on a public office, one of the museums or the Royal Hospital, for example, but if a file was on Joe or Mary Bloggs, its release would involve identifying that person. That is the only reason for withholding them.
On the basis of a question I asked, I can say to Deputy Ó Caoláin that all the files withheld in my Department in recent years, including this year, were given to Mr. Justice Barron. Even though they were withheld from the archives, he had total access to them and nothing was withheld from his report. As I replied to Deputies Rabbitte and Ó Caoláin, Mr. Justice Barron has investigated these matters and there is no point in my saying any more about missing files. The Garda and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform have also considered the matter.
The Deputy asked about files released in recent years. Very few files would be withheld. The Jack Lynch files for last year were all released. Nothing from them was withheld and there were no distractions from any of these papers. This brings us to the end of all the Jack Lynch files for this period. The files from 1973 are now all in the public domain.
Does the Taoiseach believe there is a clear likelihood of further problems regarding the National Archives, not unlike those referred to this morning, given that the capacity problem will worsen as the number of State papers doubles, as expected? My figures, which pertain to the years up to 2030, suggest the number will double from 265,000 at present to 600,000. A considerable number of files will be very difficult to keep for 30 years under the 30 year release arrangement because of the lack of space. Does this problem not need to be addressed urgently by the Government?
Does the Taoiseach believe the criteria for the withholding of information need to be re-examined? The Department of Defence has certainly a reputation for restricting many files and there may be justifiable reasons for this. However, is there not a danger that serious injustices will be perpetrated if there is a culture of restricting files? There is a case before the court which I do not want to allude to, but if an Army officer lost a job over 30 years ago and this was left to cloud over——
That certainly does not arise out of Questions Nos. 1 to 6.
I am talking about the criteria for releasing files under the National Archives Act, and that does arise. When somebody has not been able to clear his name on the basis of a mysterious decision to restrict files, it is a very serious matter and needs to be dealt with. Will the Taoiseach reconsider the criteria and the culture of restriction of files, particularly on the part of the Department of Defence?
The questions deal with the Taoiseach's Department, not the Department of Defence.
In my Department, the culture is certainly different. Even in recent years, which have comprised a difficult period in Irish history, my Department has attempted to release as much as possible. One can see that only six files were withheld this year and 720 files or file parts were released. This has also been the order for the past few years.
On the capacity issue, the volume of business of the State and Departments has obviously grown dramatically. Obviously this must be kept under review. The Act is not yet 20 years old but I am sure it will be kept under review.
On personnel matters in my Department, the practice is that former members of staff and certainly current members have access to their own files even without the freedom of information. However, access to files would be linked to the Freedom of Information Act. Except where there is a security ground, there is no difficulty in these issues.
7 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the implementation of the Nally report on the reorganisation of the Chief State Solicitor’s Office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1023/04]
8 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the implementation of the Nally report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5658/04]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 8 together.
The recommendations of the Nally report on the reorganisation of the Chief State Solicitor's Office have been largely implemented. Agreement with the Civil Service unions involved was achieved during 2001. The criminal prosecutions functions undertaken by the Office of the Chief State Solicitor were transferred to the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions at the end of 2001. A common promotion pool within the two offices for professional and technical promotion posts formed part of the agreement and this is now operating.
A negotiating process with local State solicitors seeks to agree on the transfer of the service to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Enabling legislation and appropriate legislative provisions are being drafted in the context of the Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Bill which is due to be published this session.
The Taoiseach has answered this question several times in the past. It was last discussed in mid-October 2003. A key recommendation of the Nally report was the transfer of responsibility for the local State solicitor service from the Attorney General to the Director of Public Prosecutions and that this required legislation. What progress has been made to deal with the preparation of the amending legislation and the consultations between the offices of the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions to give effect to that?
In 2003, the then Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr. James Hamilton, gave a rare media interview in which he spoke candidly about the workings of his office and difficulties outside his control. In particular, he voiced concern about the inconsistency of sentencing for similar crimes and the backlog of cases that can result in a delay of several years before cases come before the courts. Having regard to the mantra that justice delayed is justice denied, will the Taoiseach outline the actions taken to clear this backlog which is outside the control of the Director of Public Prosecutions and requires direct action from the Government?
The main elements of the report have been implemented. The recommendations of the Nally report based on one of the main findings of the study group was that no major change in the broad structure of the present system would be justified because the acceptability of the system was seen as a potent factor which should not be lightly risked in favour of an untried alternative. The study group addressed the issue of greater cohesion in the criminal justice system. Among the recommendations was the transfer of responsibility for the criminal justice division of the Chief State Solicitor's Office and the local State solicitor's office to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and these issues have been dealt with. In response to Deputy Kenny's point about the legislation, negotiations have continued over recent months with the State solicitors' association and they have been dealt an offer in the negotiation. Discussions are ongoing and they await a detailed response.
The offer made following discussions over several months was intended to achieve agreement on the changes required in transferring responsibility for the State solicitor service to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The main changes advocated in those discussions were that State solicitors should specialise in criminal work for the future, that they would agree to the termination of their existing contracts and a new work programme for the regime would be put in place. The enabling legislation to allow these changes be made will be included in the Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Bill which is to be published in this session.
Does the Taoiseach know if there are any unfilled positions in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions given the backlog of work there? Is he in a position to say whether any work is outsourced from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to private solicitors and, if so, what the nature of that work might be?
Three or four years ago, we had a major difficulty finding staff, but we increased the numbers significantly and now there is an increase of 75 staff, including 66 in the professional technical staff complement in both solicitors' offices. That was part of the agreement and there was a new recruitment scale for solicitors to replace the existing two lower grades. There was a sizeable increase of 14 extra technical staff and recruitment to a series of posts such as legal clerks who are all in place now. The Chief State Solicitor's Office has approved most of the additional staff and the staff complement averages 225 over the past year. The office now has 17 vacancies comprising nine professional, five technical, and three support posts. While that number is quite high, it is nothing compared with the vacancies a few years ago. There is high turnover in that office because many young solicitors and staff work there for a few years and then move on. There is a continuous movement although this is not as great as it was three or four years ago.
It is chilling to recollect the atrocity that brought about the recommendations of the Nally report. Will the Taoiseach say in the meantime whether any action has been initiated on the recommendations, for example on keeping better records, North-South contacts, production of a written code of instructions, guidelines on intelligence gathering and agent handling and the prospect of introducing legislation on intelligence gathering and agent handling, and whether any action has been taken in regard to any of those matters? Will the Government support litigation being taken by the families against one of the suspects and what type of support will the Government give them whether by way of advice or money? Having regard to the security matters involved, there have been calls for a restricted report. Is there any hope of such a report being released?
Is the Deputy referring to a different report?
I am referring to the Nally report.
The Taoiseach is discussing the Nally report dealing with the re-organisation of the Chief State Solicitor's Office.
To assist the Deputy, I can understand the confusion because there are two Nally reports.
I asked about the Nally report on the question I tabled. It was obviously grouped with another question on the basis of that confusion. The Taoiseach is familiar enough with the circumstances to allow an answer to my question.
There are two Nally reports and Question No. 8 was linked with Question No. 7 on the basis that they referred to the report referred to in Deputy Kenny's question. The second Nally report was debated here recently. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is dealing with and is answerable to the House on that report. It is more appropriate to address those questions to him.
9 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the appointments made by him since June 2002 to State boards or other agencies within his aegis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1029/04]
10 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the appointments he has made to State boards since June 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5625/04]
11 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach the appointments made by him since June 2002 to State boards and other agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5659/04]
12 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach the appointments which have been made by him to State boards and other agencies since June 2002. [6694/04]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 to 12, inclusive, together.
The bodies under the aegis of my Department are the National Statistics Board, the National Economic and Social Council, NESC, the National Economic and Social Forum, NESF, the Information Society Commission, the National Centre for Partnership and Performance, NCPP, the Law Reform Commission, and the International Financial Services Centre Group.
The appointments made by me to these bodies since June 2002 are set out in the following schedule.
Appointments to bodies under the aegis of the Department of Taoiseach since June 2002.
Date of Appointment
National Economic and
Mr. Jack O’Connor (SIPTU)
All made in September and
Ms Aileen O’Donoghue (IBEC)
Ms Deirdre Garvey (The Wheel)
Mr. John Mark McCafferty (St. Vincent de Paul)
Mr. John Dolan (Disability Federation of Ireland)
Mr. Niall Callan (Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)
Mr. Colin Hunt (Goodbody Stockbrokers)
Professor Brigid Laffan (UCD)
Professor John Fitzgerald (ESRI)
Professor Eithne McLaughlin (Queens University)
Mr. Peter Bacon (Economic Consultant)
National Centre for
Mr. John Walsh (Department of Enterprise, Trade and
Mr. Fergus Whelan (ICTU)
IFSC Clearing House
Mr. Walter Brazil (AIB Capital Markets)
Reconstituted November 2002
Mr. Gavin Caldwell
Mr. Denis Casey (Irish Life and Permanent)
Mr. Brian Collins (Bank of Ireland Security Services)
Mr. Peter Coyne (Dublin Docklands Development Authority)
Mr. Colm Doherty (AIB Capital Markets)
Mr. Brian Goggin (Bank of Ireland)
Mr. John Larkin (William Fry Solicitors)
Ms Aileen O’Donoghue (Financial Services Ireland)
Mr. Michael Ryan (Merrill Lynch Capital Markets Bank Limited)
Mr. Willie Slattery (State Street International Ireland Limited)
Mr. Pat Wall (PricewaterhouseCoopers)
National Economic and Social Forum
Of the 62 NESF members, 50 are appointed by nominating bodies, five members areex officio and five independent members are appointed by the Government. The five NESF independent appointments are: Dr. Mary P Corcoran (NUI, Maynooth) Cáit Keane (South Dublin County Council) Dr. Colm Harmon (UCD) Dr. Brian Nolan (ESRI) Mr. Paul Tansey (Economist) The Government also appoints the Chair and deputy Chair.
Reconstitution of the NESF has recently been finalised. Members appointed during January and February 2004.
National Statistics Board
Professor Brendan Walsh (UCD) Chair Dr. Patricia O’Hara (Western Development Commission) Ms Mary Doyle (Assistant Secretary, Department of the Taoiseach) Mr. Derek Moran (Assistant Secretary, Department of Finance) Ms Paula Carey (ICTU Trade Union Pillar nominee) Mr. Ciaran Dolan (ICMSA, Farming Pillar nominee) Mr. Frank Cuneen (Business Pillar nominee) Mr. Donal Garvey, Director General of the Central Statistics Office is a member of the boardex officio.
Reconstituted with effect from 9 February 2004.
I can give the Taoiseach a gem of information. A report by the United Nations Development Fund for Women, published in May 2003, showed that Ireland lags seriously behind in the percentage of women in national Parliament and other representative positions. For instance, sub-Saharan African states such as Eritrea, Uganda and Mozambique have a higher female representation than Ireland.
The Deputy must ask a question. It is not appropriate to give information to the Taoiseach. The purpose of Question Time is to elicit information from the Taoiseach, so the Deputy should confine himself to a question.
At this rate it will take 370 years for the percentage of women in the Dáil to reach 50%. I hope the effort on this side of the House will bear some fruit inside a reasonable time. Is the Taoiseach aware that, ten years ago, the then Minister for Equality and Law Reform, Mervyn Taylor of the Labour Party, directed that State boards should appoint women to 40% of their positions? Today the average across Departments is just 29%, well below the target of 40% which is ten years old. Some State boards have no female representation. What action is the Taoiseach taking to address this? Does he plan to implement the recommendations of the National Women's Council of Ireland in its November 2002 report? Does the target of 40% representation by women on State boards still stand? Will the Taoiseach attempt to reach these targets during the course of this Administration?
The question refers specifically to the Department of the Taoiseach.
I do all I can to enforce the rules and continually press Ministers to do likewise. It is monitored by one of my ministerial colleagues. Women represent 37% of the National Statistics Board; 19% of the National Economic and Social Council, NESC; 42% of the National Economic and Social Forum; 40% of the Information Society Commission; 29.5% the National Centre for Partnership and Performance; 60% of the Law Reform Commission; and 14.3% of the International Financial Services Centre Clearing House Group.
As Deputy Kenny is aware my capacity to appoint members to the boards under my aegis is constrained by those selected by nominating bodies. All I can do is to press them and encourage them as I continually do with some difficulty. In some cases the level of representation by women is good and in others it is not so good. The International Financial Services Centre Clearing House Group represents specialist groups and membership of that board depends on availability of specialists. The women on that board are extremely helpful and give of their time very generously. While their representation at 14% is considerably below what I would like, those people are nominated by the industry.
While appointments are made to other boards not under my aegis, I continually try to ensure the target of 40% is achieved if not exceeded.
Does the Taoiseach agree that fundamental reform of the method of appointment of people to State boards is long overdue? Is he aware that the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Bill will establish the financial services ombudsman and other related bodies, including consumer panels and industry panels, which will result in an additional 50 or more appointments to State boards? Does the Taoiseach have an estimate of the number of people now serving on State boards? In my view it must run to many hundreds. It is all the more important to have a regularised process.
Would the Taoiseach not agree that we need a system that is open to all citizens with appointments based on suitability, ability and the level of information or application of the person? Would it not be preferable to have such an open and transparent system rather than the current system that is open to the accusation that it is only accessed by those who know somebody or as a sweetener for those who support particular political parties? The Taoiseach will have to agree——
It is not appropriate to give your view at this stage.
I am asking the Taoiseach a question.
As I pointed out to Deputy Kenny, the purpose of Question Time is to elicit information from the Taoiseach.
I am asking the Taoiseach——
The Deputy will want to give him time to answer as we are coming to the end of the time for questions to the Taoiseach. The Deputy should not make statements and should confine himself to questions.
Does the Taoiseach agree that the exposure by the "Prime Time" programme last week of the so-called "prison visiting boards" is a further indication of the type of abuses and shows the concern that exists in the wider public? Would the Taoiseach not agree that we need an advertised system, the criteria of qualification to be published, members of the public to be allowed to apply and suitable candidates interviewed? That is the correct way and I hope the Taoiseach will agree.
I can only answer for the boards for which I am responsible. It might help if we were to advertise for members of the National Statistics Board, the Law Reform Commission, the International Financial Services Centre Groups and the Information Society Commission. It might make it somewhat easier to get dedicated busy people with professional competence to give of their time as existing members do. Others who have been in Government before me will know that it is hard enough to get people to serve on the vast majority of boards and this is likely to get harder.
I do not agree with assertions that have been made outside the House, which come from those who are not informed about the knowledge and expertise required and did little to find out. Boards such as the National Statistics Board and the National Economic and Social Council are absolutely transparent as to their members. The State gives them responsibility. The NESC comprises a chairperson, deputy chairperson and approximately 60 members picked by the various pillars. The same applies to the NESF. The National Statistics Board normally comprises professionals. The Information Society Commission mainly comprises non-political people who give of their time. While I am sure they vote on election day, they are people from large companies. The Law Reform Commission is made up of legal experts. Half of the appointees to the International Financial Services Centre Clearing House Group are not from Ireland.
It is getting increasingly harder to get people to serve on boards for effectively nothing or what they would earn in a very short period of time. They are dedicated and give of their time only to get pilloried for their effort.
It is quite frustrating to hear the Taoiseach talk about how difficult it is to get people and then to say he sees no point in advertising. This is a contradiction in terms. Would the Taoiseach agree there is nothing to be lost by advertising the positions? People who are capable, patriotic enough and in any way skilled should make their names known for a selection procedure. I share the Taoiseach's belief concerning women or men with family commitments and there may also be other factors. Has there been any evaluation of the factors that give rise to the difficulty people have with involvement in State boards apart from the fact that they are not advertised and kept within a circle of people who know each other? Would the Taoiseach not consider it preferable to have advertising, which would at least provide a cross-section of society who may be unknown to the Government?
I do not like saying this but many of these boards comprise Oireachtas Members. It is hard enough to get us to participate in these boards.
The Taoiseach should not mind that.
This is an important point. This is totally open and transparent and Oireachtas Members are on these boards when we can get people to participate. Does the Deputy really believe that people who kindly give of their expertise and time to the National Statistics Board, such as Professor Brendan Walsh, the chairman, or Dr. Patricia O'Hara would submit their names following an advertisement for board membership in the newspapers? The Deputy should get real for God's sake. They will not do so. The same applies to those from AIB Capital Markets or Irish Life who are members of the IFSC Clearing House Group.
The Taoiseach is nominating them.
These are experts in their field who are picked not because of their political persuasion, but because we can get them to do the job. On most State boards we are increasingly trying to get international and local representatives. I do not think there is much political chicanery regardless of who is in Government. I reject that suggestion. I reject also the suggestion that people who are politicians or who were politicians in the past should not be on boards. The House knows my view on such matters. I believe we would be far better off if there were more politicians or former politicians on boards.
Would the Taoiseach accept that he is presenting himself as a helpless person on the sidelines? Does he accept that when it comes to participation of women in positions of power and authority, nothing will change unless it is made to change and that part of the reason there is such an imbalance is that there is so much lip service and so little action? Surely the Taoiseach is aware that when it comes to women participating on State boards he can instruct Ministers to ensure that this happens?
Second, not only are women willing to go on these boards, databases are being compiled, the most recent of which I am aware being the Irish forum of the International Women's Federation, where women are offering to serve not just on State boards but on the boards of private companies as well. The Taoiseach must either prove he is serious about this or admit that there is no commitment in Government to ensure that inequality regarding women will be addressed.
The databases mentioned by the Deputy are used by Government and many good people have been recruited from them. The boards to which I refer, which are representative of the social partners and other agencies, insist on putting forward numbers. We are forever asking them to ensure balance. The national statistic is that 37% of board members are women, but the National Economic and Social Forum statistic is 19%. That is made up of the social partner groups and various organisations within society that nominate a number of people. They do not, in some cases, put forward women, and that is why the proportion of women on these boards is 19%
That is why the Taoiseach must ask them to do so.
It is an endless battle to try to get them to put forward women for appointment to boards. This has happened not only in recent times, it has been going on for years in some organisations. At least when the Government is appointing a board of, say, ten people it can insist on having a balance. It is extremely difficult to get the social partners and pillars in society to put forward the required number of women even when we delay them. We use the database to select women for State boards and commercial semi-State boards, and it is very useful. We have selected several people who would not have been known either personally or in terms of Government, but who had extremely good CVs and who put their names forward, and they have proved themselves. In the past two days the Minister for Transport has done the same, although I am not sure if he has yet announced the board. Nobody knew the person in question, but we are glad to make such appointments.