Appointments to Public Bodies Bill 2007: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I wish to share time with Deputy O'Connor.

The Deputy has ten minutes while Deputy O'Connor will have nine.

I am sure he will mention Tallaght sufficiently in the nine minutes.

At least once a minute.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate. I considered the Bill in detail earlier in light of last night's debate and, while it is thought provoking, I do not support it. The explanatory memorandum states:

Public bodies are an essential feature of governance in Ireland and important decisions affecting the lives of people are taken by individuals appointed to the boards of these bodies. The present procedures for appointing board chairpersons and members are diverse and badly defined. This has the potential of giving elite groups a monopoly of such positions and therefore an inordinate degree of influence on decision making. Renewed public confidence is required in the integrity of procedures and there is a need to eradicate any element of patronage. This Bill seeks to establish an independent merit based appointment system, through a new institutional framework which will allow for a systematic and transparent process of selection and appointments. This will ultimately enhance accountability and rigor in these bodies.

While there is merit in what Deputy Boyle is trying to achieve, the processes outlined in the Bill will not achieve what he wants. Last night he stated:

The overwhelming majority of those selected to serve on State bodies are individuals of ability who contribute out of a sense of public spiritedness. However, we must make a distinction between the people who are chosen and the methods used to select them.

The Deputy is correct that most of those appointed to State bodies are individuals of ability and my concern is if the Bill is adopted, those people who are targeted currently would not be attracted because of the bureaucracy and recruitment competitions proposed. In corporate Ireland, when large companies recruit board members, people are head hunted based on ability, talent and expertise. Many of the individuals serving on State bodies would not respond to the procedures envisaged in the legislation.

One of the strengths of the present system is that Ministers can approach those they consider to have the qualities necessary to serve on the boards for which they are responsible. Many men and women on State boards have vast experience in business or other relevant areas of public life and they have willingly accepted their positions out of a sense of public duty. I doubt many of them would go through the process envisaged in the legislation. Such an approach would be appropriate for recruiting employees but not directors and chairpersons of State bodies. There is a difference between full-time employment and the work done by the members of various boards. These individuals have ability but I am concerned that they would not respond to the procedures envisaged in the legislation.

The Deputy also stated in his contribution that, "The Bill proposes several simple measures that can help restore public confidence in the system". This suggests an absence of public confidence but I disagree. Many boards are respected and a substantial number operate effectively over a wide range of areas. The assertion that public confidence is lacking in all these boards does not stand up to the scrutiny.

The Deputy further stated:

It suggests that all public appointments to State bodies and agencies [...] should, in the first instance, be approved. We propose that an Oireachtas committee on appointments to public bodies be established.

However, this introduces another layer of bureaucracy. There are approximately 600 State bodies, many of whose boards comprise 12 members. More than 7,000 people, therefore, serve on these bodies and the Deputy proposes that they should be appointed through a recruitment competition overseen by a new Oireachtas joint committee. That would involve considerable work.

The Deputy seeks the establishment of the joint committee to carry out a review of all the procedures in place for the appointments of chairpersons and board members of existing bodies and to establish a list of such appointments, which should henceforth adhere to the new procedures. That involves significant work for many bodies. It removes from Ministers what should rightfully be their responsibility and introduces another layer of bureaucracy.

It is normal commercial practice for the shareholder to nominate people to the board to look after the shareholder's interest. In the case of commercial semi-State bodies, the Minister with the relevant financial responsibility for the area will nominate appointees to the board taking account of the type of company involved. Obviously, the Minister for Finance, as a shareholder or joint shareholder, is consulted on the nomination. This system is in place and works well.

I make this point because it could be construed from the introduction of this Bill that people who are appointed to boards are able to go about their business freely. However, it is worth mentioning that people who are appointed to boards do not have a free hand as there are strict rules and guidelines in place. As recently as 2001, the Minister for Finance issued the code of practice for the governance of State bodies. Its purpose was to provide a governance framework within which the internal management and internal and external reporting relationships of State bodies was to take place. It is important to realise this point because one could draw the inference from the Bill that one appoints people to State boards and so be it. However, nothing could be further from the truth as clear guidelines of codes of practice exist for the governance of such State bodies.

I wish to take issue with two points made by Deputy Gogarty during last night's debate. He stated:

The same would apply for any other State body such as those in the education field, for example. In the case of a number of Bills... which I have been involved [in] during [the] Government's term of office, the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, has been requested to allow certain bodies representation on a board and various education partners have been requested to be on the boards concerned because of their specific skill[s]. ... The Minister has always stated that she retains the right to appoint and she will weigh it up on balance. That is not good for democracy.

I fundamentally disagree with Deputy Gogarty as I believe this constitutes democracy at work. The Minister of the day makes the decision. Democracy has allowed that person to be elected to this House and subsequently to the office and that is our procedure of accountability. People are held accountable and the point made by Deputy Gogarty misrepresents and misunderstands the position. The State has accountability and democracy and the election of the Minister to this House in the first instance and subsequently to the position of Minister constitutes democracy at work.

Deputy Gogarty made a further point that was at a tangent or not relevant to the Bill and which was mistaken and regretful. He mentioned a number of people by name in respect of South Dublin County Council. While I will not repeat the names, he mentioned in particular a former councillor on South Dublin County Council who now works as an agent to a developer in the area. Deputy Gogarty stated:

These are all people trying to do their jobs in private enterprise and there should be no aspersions cast on their good character, but public bodies and public servants going to work in the private sector should be subject to some form of control.

While I do not disagree with his point, the area he raised last night is not relevant to or reflected in this Bill in any way. It was unfortunate that individuals' names were raised in the House last night in the context of this Bill, and it should not have happened. The Bill does not reflect the type of issue that Deputy Gogarty was trying to raise.

This matter was particularly unfortunate in the case of the former member of South Dublin County Council, who was a councillor for a considerable time. I understand he was first elected in 1991. In those days, the level of remuneration received by councillors was quite small and I know he had the same full-time job then as he does today. It was unfortunate that the matter was raised in the House, where he does not have an opportunity to defend himself. Moreover, it was not relevant to the Bill and on those grounds it was unfortunate that Deputy Gogarty raised it.

While I found the Bill interesting, it will not achieve Deputy Boyle's intended objectives. The procedures add nothing but another layer of bureaucracy and those with expertise, ability and talent, who one tries to draw into such bodies and boards, will not respond to the type of public advertisement and recruitment procedures this Bill tries to set out. In that regard, I regret I will be unable to support the Bill.

As Deputy Curran mentioned Tallaght and South Dublin County Council, I have hardly anything left to say. I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this Bill and I welcome the attendance of the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe. I could easily digress, as did other Members last night, and talk about everything but the Bill.

That would be unlike Deputy O'Connor.

Perhaps the Minister of State and I could discuss the need to accelerate the programme for the development of the new fire station in Tallaght——

——for which I have campaigned strongly. While I could easily spend seven and a half minutes talking about that issue, I will resist that temptation.

We gave you the money.

I listened to Deputy Paul McGrath last night, when a more amenable Chair allowed him to talk about everything, which was certainly entertaining. Without wishing to be disruptive about last night's proceedings, it was suggested that Government Members were not taking an interest in the Bill. That was not true and I had looked forward to contributing to the debate.

I presume none of the Members present, including my constituency colleague, Deputy Crowe, has won the politician of the year award, which is being announced as I speak. I am comfortable with that and can retain my low profile.

It is customary on these occasions to pay tribute to the mover of the Private Members' Bill and although I cannot support him, I compliment Deputy Boyle on his work and interest. The Deputy and I go back for some time. If he does not mind me outing him, we were board members of the National Youth Federation. Politically, we went in different directions and I do not know who was right and who was wrong.

I was right of course.

Deputy Boyle went off course and strayed from us.

In a debate like this, it is important to acknowledge work that has been done. Reference has been made to this Bill which, unfortunately, I cannot support for a number of reasons. However, it has generated debate, which is positive. It has kept Members in the House on a night when I would be happy to be in Croke Park, cheering on Richard Dunne from Tallaght and the Irish team. However, I will conduct my business and then watch the match on television.

As for the business before the House, Members should understand that the Private Members' Bill that has been tabled by their Green Party colleague proposes the creation of new procedures for the chair and boards of public bodies and for special appointments to international organisations that are at the discretion of the Government at present. Clearly, this is the reason Government Members do not support the Bill.

I speak as someone who did not serve on major State boards. However, over time, I was appointed to a number of different bodies. As Minister of Health after the 1987 general election, the current Ceann Comhairle appointed me to the board of St. James's Hospital and subsequently to the Tallaght Hospital board. I was also appointed by other Ministers, not all of whom were members of Fianna Fáil, including the former Minister, Deputy Howlin, who kindly appointed me to a hospital board. In addition, I was appointed to the health promotion unit of the Department of Health and Children, as well as to Gaisce, the President's awards. The relevant point in respect of the Bill and people's comments on it is that I always considered such appointments to be from the Minister of the day, including a Labour Party Minister, who examined the skills that people possessed. I never pretended to be anything other than what I was. However, I would not have been appointed to those bodies at that time were it not for my community background. I do not make this point in a virtuous way. It gave me an insight into the manner in which such boards were set up and how Governments work in that regard.

I was also appointed in 1996 by the then Taoiseach, Mr. John Bruton, to the Government's Devolution Commission. At the time I was a lone Fianna Fáil representative on that body. When considering a Bill like this, one has time to reflect on such appointments, which involved all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds with all sorts of skills.

Deputy Curran made the relevant point on the importance of the Minister of the day retaining, in so far as possible, discretion to pick people for different boards. There will always be views expressed when people are not in Government, some of which change on entering office, as to what kind of people should be appointed and what those appointments should be. I take the view that all Governments will experience occasions when people disagree about particular appointments. As far as many boards are concerned efforts are made to get people with particular skills and interests.

In my case, my community background, interest in health and education and pursuit of educational awards brought me to a situation where I was appointed to various boards. Later, I received a letter from a famous Fianna Fáil Minister whom I shall not identify. She wrote and told me she appreciated the service I gave to the board and was now going to give somebody else an opportunity to use their skills on behalf of the State.

It is fair to state the practices and procedures adopted by the Government follow those adopted by previous Governments. Through these procedures a strong public sector has evolved which delivers effectively a range of public services. The House must be mindful of the enormous contribution made by many people. I hope it will refrain from putting in place procedures that would serve to deter rather than attract people to positions in public bodies. I am happy to have had an opportunity to make a short contribution on the Bill. I wish Deputy Boyle well but look forward to supporting the Government at 8.30 p.m.

Deputies O'Shea, Ó Snodaigh and Crowe will share time. It is agreed Deputy O'Shea's speaking time will be ten minutes, with five minutes each for Deputies Ó Snodaigh and Crowe.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to contribute to this debate on the Appointments to Public Bodies Bill. It is high time the Oireachtas addresses this area and I compliment the Green Party on bringing the Bill before the Dáil. Its drafting raises serious technical issues but the Labour Party will support it.

The Labour Party introduced the 40% gender quota with regard to State boards. From my time as Minister of State I recall great difficulties in appointing the best possible board. Having nominees from particular bodies on a board does not always lead to appointing the best people. Issues such as worker participation on State boards are a different matter. I was never convinced of the prudence of having a number of people on boards who were nominees of particular bodies because one sometimes ended up with people who were good at getting themselves elected rather than people one would want.

Ministerial discretion, if properly exercised, is important in the context of appointing State boards. With regard to the gender quota, I recall occasions when we had great difficulty in finding people with the proper qualifications to appoint to boards. It has become less of an issue in the intervening time.

I also remember issues raised when drafting legislation with regard to creating a proper formula to describe the people one wants and avoiding a situation where people who did not have the wherewithal to take up positions could be appointed. Phrases such as "experience in" and "knowledge of" were used. This is extremely important in terms of appointing the right board.

I wish to input some ideas to the debate and it is difficult to get the lay-out of legislation on this right. We must ensure openness, transparency and public accountability when making public appointments. I suggest where appointments to any office, positions of employment or directorships of a public body are proposed to be made by the Government, a Minister or a Minister of State, the Government or Minister should, as soon as possible, lay certain documents before the Oireachtas prior to making an appointment. I suggest among these documents would be a copy of a proposed contract or a statement in writing of the proposed terms and conditions applicable to the appointment, a statement dealing with the procedures followed for the purpose of making an appointment specifying whether the vacancy was advertised and, if not, why not, whether applications were invited and, if so, from whom and whether competitions or interviews were held.

I also suggest including a statement on the selection criteria adopted by the Government or Minister, including any quotas, guidelines or practices relating to the appointment of members of particular groups specifying the qualifications considered necessary or desirable for the appointment.

I also suggest that including a statement of the qualifications of the person proposed for the appointment is relevant and a statement of any previous appointments or contract for services made or awarded in respect of that person by the Government, a Minister or a Minister of State is important. The documents should also include a statement on whether the person proposed for the appointment is or was a connected person to any public representative who is a member of a political party forming the Government or part of it or a member of any such political party, specifying the connection and the political party.

With regard to the public bodies we are discussing, a major necessity would be to instruct Oireachtas joint committees that under their orders of reference they may, and where a request is made in writing by no fewer than one third of the members shall, consider and report on any such proposed appointments as it sees fit, shall periodically consider and report upon the general trend of such appointments, may suggest alterations and improvements in procedures for making such appointments and may for those purposes hold hearings and take evidence.

It is important to have a full mechanism for accountability such as bodies responsible to the Oireachtas which can take evidence through the committees. This issue concerns many of us. The main example is how difficult it is for us as Members of the Dáil to obtain information from the HSE. We table parliamentary questions which are referred to the political division of the HSE. Even though procedures are improving and we receive answers more quickly, I find it difficult to accept a scenario where there is no direct accountability to the House and the Minister is not answerable in a particular area. It is clearly a problem not only with the HSE, other bodies are affected by the same issue.

I have outlined procedures that would be well worth exploring. The ideas include that procedures shall apply to nominations for appointment to any office or position which the Government, a Minister or Minister of State, by virtue of the State's membership of an international body, proposes to make. Such procedure shall not apply to appointments to membership of the Seanad, appointment of judges, offices of the Defence Forces, members of the Garda Síochána or civil servants. I suggest this restriction is prudent and wise overall.

Essentially, these are ideas I have floated. Ultimately, the major issue with regard to any of these State bodies is that they serve the purpose for which they are set up and that the membership would be the optimum membership in terms of achieving those goals.

The reason the Green Party introduced the Bill and the reason other parties are concerned is to ensure appointments are not made inappropriately, such as to reward political cronies etc. In these cases there would be very serious questions about the competence of the person being nominated to fill positions.

Other practices are operated by these bodies. For example, some directors or other appointees would have a three-year span, with others having a five-year span or whatever the case may be. It is clearly important that people do not get dug in, so to speak, and sit for too long on particular bodies when there is a need for fresh thinking.

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an deis labhairt ar an mBille tábhachtach seo. Is trua é nach bhfuil an Rialtas ag glacadh leis, mar measaim gur ábhar dáiríre is ea an t-ábhar seo. Tá an-chuid dos na boird Stáit agus na boird phoiblí lena bhfuilimid ag deileáil ag déanamh cinnithe rí-thábhachtach ó thaobh todhchaí phobal na tíre seo. Bíonn tionchar ag na cinnithe a dhéanann siad ar an bpobal i gcoitinne. Sa lá atá inniu ann, tá níos mó agus níos mó boird Stáit á chruthú ag an Rialtas.

Cruthaítear bord Stáit nua i mbeagnach gach Bille a thagann roimh an Oireachtais. Déanann an Rialtas iarracht cumhachtaí áirithe a thabhairt dos na boird éagsúla. Ní gá ach féachaint ar an méid a dhein an Rialtas nuair a bhí siad ag deileáil le Aer Rianta anuraidh. Chruthaigh an Rialtas trí chomhlacht as Aer Rianta. Tá an Rialtas ag roinnt Bord Soláthar Leictreachais i gcodanna chomh maith. Bíonn gá leis na cinnithe seo ó am go chéile, ach go minic ní fheicim an gá sin don phobal. Tá an cuma ar an scéal diaidh ar ndiaidh go bhfuil na postanna seo á chruthú do chairde Fianna Fáil nó an Páirtí Daonlathach. Tá sé seo ag tárlú.

Cabhraíonn an córas seo leis an Rialtas agus le hAirí, ach go háirithe, éalú ón fhreagracht atá acu do Thithe an Oireachtais nuair atáimid ag iarraidh freagraí ar ár gceisteanna. Luaigh an Teachta O'Shea ceist an HSE — tá sé deacair dúinn mar Teachtaí Dála teacht ar fhreagraí ar na ceisteanna móra a bhaineann le chóras leighis na tíre seo. Feicimid ró-mhinic go bhfuil daoine roghnaithe agus ní leír an bhfuil aon saineolas acu maidir leis an mbord ar a seasfaidh siad. Ní féidir linn a bheith cinnte an bhfuil siad chun aon scil a thógaint go dtí an post nua atá acu.

Chuala mé an Teachta Curran níos luaithe ag rá go bhfuil iad siúd atá tofa freagrach agus cuntasach. Cad a tharlaíonn dóibh siúd nach bhfreastalaíonn ar cruinnithe na mbord? Bíonn mórán díobh siúd atá tofa as láthair don chuid is mó de chruinnithe na mbord. Níl aon fhreagracht acu don Teach seo. Go minic, déantar iad a ath-thofa nó a ath-roghnú dos na mbord. Aontaím nach díreach ar chinneadh tobann amháin gur chóir dúinn daoine a ceapadh. Ní chóir dúinn postanna tábhachtach a líonadh ar an bhonn sin. Déanann siad cinnithe móra maidir le todhchaí na tíre.

B'fhéidir go bhfuilimid beagáinín níos oscailte ná mar a bhíomar am amháin. Tá eolas ag a lán daoine faoi chásanna ina roghnaíodh daoine nach raibh oiriúnach. Cén fáth a bhfuil eagla ar an Rialtas maidir leis an mBille seo? Ba chóir go mbeadh an córas rialtas níos oscailte sa lá atá inniu ann. Conas is féidir le haon Rialtas chur i gcoinne an cód cleachtais atá leagtha amach sa Bhille seo ag an Teachta Boyle agus a chomhleacaithe? Aontaím gur chóir go mbeadh na folúntais fógraithe, go mbeadh ról baill na mbord soiléir, go mbeadh an réimse scileanna nó an cúlra riachtanach leagtha amach go soiléir agus go mbeadh an bunús ar a roghnaíodh na baill seo leagtha amach.

Tá gá ann cothromaíocht cheart idir scileanna agus cúlra a shonrú. Ba chóir go mbeadh na cinnithe sna chásanna seo ar bhonn merit. Ag cur leis an cód seo, tá ról lárnach á moladh sa Bhille seo do Thithe an Oireachtais, chun go mbeimid cinnte go bhfuil an cinneadh is fearr á ghlacadh againn ó thaobh na mbord rí-thábhachtach seo. Molaim an Bille agus molaim an Chomhaontas Ghlas as ucht é a chur romhainn.

Mar a dúirt an Teachta Ó Snodaigh, ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an mBille. Sinn Féin welcomes the opportunity to speak on this Bill and commends Deputy Boyle and the Green Party for initiating a debate on the issue. The question of who is appointed to State boards and how they are selected is very important for society. The Green Party is right to point out that important decisions affecting the quality of life and services of people are taken by individuals appointed to the boards of these bodies. Past practices have had detrimental consequences for the semi-State sector in particular. The process has been dogged by a lack of accountability coupled with political appointees, cronyism and an under-representation of women.

The question that can be asked tonight is when was the last time people from a marginalised or disadvantaged background, or minorities such as Travellers, were appointed to State boards. This has created a scenario that is rife with bad practice. No party that has served in Government is free from complicity in these practices.

As was emphasised during the debate last night, this has seriously undermined public confidence in public bodies in general. There is still a real, some might say justifiable, perception that public appointments are made on the basis of who knows who and whether a person has connections to whatever parties happen to be in power. In many cases political appointees have little or no interests in promoting a healthy public sector and in some cases they are opposed to its development. They may have very little if any relevant experience. Sinn Féin has long argued for a transparent and accountable appointment process where relevant qualification would be given due consideration. In many cases we have attempted to enshrine this in legislation before the House.

The North has many quangos and political appointees etc., and this will be addressed in the discussions taking place over the next couple of weeks. If we are to speak about a society based on the principles of equality of opportunity, this quangoism and cronyism must be seen as wrong and should not be allowed. Last night, the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, told the House that the Government considers carefully the attributes of the persons selected in the context of the requirements of the post. The practices and procedures adopted by the Government follow those adopted by its predecessors. By telling us the Minister of State follows procedures adopted by his predecessors, he confirms that the process and bad practices of the past persist today. The Minister of State and the Government seem to be in denial and are unaware of or oblivious to the damaging effect of cronyism on State bodies and public confidence. The proposal in the legislation for a special unit to be attached to the Public Appointments Commission is worth consideration. The issue regarding the establishment of a joint Oireachtas committee on appointments to public bodies may be better dealt with by existing committees where members would have a better knowledge of the specific State bodies in question. I would like to hear more discussion on this matter. It is correct that appointments must be made subject to greater scrutiny by the Dáil in particular.

Another serious concern regarding public appointments to State bodies is that many political appointees have a selfish interest in promoting the privatisation of State companies from which they seek to profit. We should remember Aer Lingus and the actions of its management, which wanted to buy the company. What about the ongoing problems at An Post and the role its board has played? Mismanagement at An Post has threatened the future of the post office network and rural post offices in particular.

The Deputy should conclude.

Sinn Féin believes that a radical reform of the procedures for appointments to State boards is necessary. I commend the Bill to the House.

I presume the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, is playing snakes and ladders.

A crossword.

It is not a crossword.

I wish to share time with Deputies Catherine Murphy, McHugh and Joe Higgins.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Appointments to Public Bodies Bill 2007 and compliment the Green Party on introducing it. This is an important debate, but that the matter has appeared on the Order Paper so late in the Dáil is a pity.

The legislation's background is the fact that politics have been devalued during the years by broken promises and a lack of trust. For example, people make a series of promises in an election manifesto or programme for Government, but upon entering office, they cast aside many if not all of their promises immediately and take a different road than indicated. Politics and politicians have consequently been brought into dispute.

I do not disagree with the belief out there concerning cronyism, namely, that Ministers have the opportunity to ensure their friends are appointed to State bodies by way of a reward for being members of the political parties in power rather than on the basis of ability.

The legislation is timely and welcome and I will support it in the House. It is worth referring to the explanatory memorandum, which lays out the Bill's purpose. It states: "Public bodies are an essential feature of governance in Ireland and important decisions affecting the lives of people are taken by individuals appointed to the boards of these bodies." Therefore, it is important that the right people — those with ability, the will of the people and a public service ethic — be appointed to the boards. Gender and age balances have been absent previously and a number of groups that might not be seen as being particularly important in society have been excluded.

It would take a considerable amount of time and effort to analyse the systems that are in place for appointments to public bodies. Thankfully, that time and effort has been invested by a group called TASC, a think tank for action on social change in Dublin. In support of the legislation, I will quote from TASC's report, which captures what I want to say. In 2005, the report identified approximately 5,000 appointments to public bodies at national level, the majority of which were in the gift of Government. If regional and local levels were included, that number would be significantly greater. The report stated:

Given the number of these appointments and the importance of the function which the appointees must perform, it is a big gap in our accountability structure that Ireland has no clearly established mechanism to ensure that appointments are free from undue political or other influence or that there is an effective independent appointments system in place. As of now, ministers and senior civil servants are responsible for appointing the majority of members to Public Bodies. Moreover, the influence of the Oireachtas in the making of these public appointments is negligible... There is a lack of clarity as to the expertise or experience which might objectively merit such appointments. Without clear criteria there is the danger of making appointments where the appointee has either mediocre ability or is lacking the appropriate skills and knowledge.

It also stated: "There are no effective mechanisms to ensure representation of the diversity of the Irish population: gender balance at 25%, is still short of the 40% guideline established in 1991." I am quoting, but not selectively. Had I the time, I would quote the entire report.

The report continues:

Overall, the present system of appointment to Public Bodies effectively gives elite groups a monopoly of such positions and therefore an inordinate degree of influence on decision making in the State... The unplanned and ad hoc mushrooming of Public Bodies combined with the lack of good information about them is bad for democracy. The very existence of these agencies in the ad hoc and fragmented manner in which they have grown up adds a further layer to the bureaucracy of government, constraining an individual citizen’s ability to interact with an agency from which they are seeking a public service. The case has now been persuasively and repeatedly made for a strategic overview to be taken of Public Bodies, in accordance with clear criteria.

I will refer to two final quotes: "It is now more than forty years since the absence of a clear strategy for the establishment of Public Bodies has been identified as a key problem in urgent need of reform". This is not exactly a rush. Further, "Given the growing importance of Public Bodies and the influential role of non-elected individuals on important public decisions and actions, this accountability system needs to be extended to create an independent system for these appointments." The report's gist is clear.

It is interesting that the Progressive Democrats Party, which described itself in its founding mission statement as wanting to remove the State from people's lives, has been in government during the years of a proliferation of State bodies. The Government's accountability has been removed from people's lives. Indeed, the report, Outsourcing Government, from which I quoted is well named. I support the legislation.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak on the Green Party's Appointments to Public Bodies Bill 2007. While I compliment Deputy Boyle on introducing the Bill — I understand he did the spadework in this instance, as he so often does — I caution against the establishment of another quango to do quite a simple job. I have doubts about the practicality of the Bill's proposal that an Oireachtas committee be set up to vet applicants or nominees for positions in public bodies. My wonderment is based on my feelings about the current operation of the committee system. Deputies are stretched to the limit in many cases when trying to cover their committee work and follow proceedings in the Dáil Chamber. I wonder if the establishment of a committee, the remit of which would be to vet people's qualifications, would be successful. If one examines the work of the sub-committee which deals with EU directives, one will quickly learn that it does not have enough time to consider issues in detail. If the proposed appointments committee is established, I suspect similar circumstances will be encountered. Will this proposal genuinely improve the situation, or has it merely been suggested to improve the optics?

While I agree that the process of making appointments to many public bodies needs to be scrutinised, a distinction needs to be made between appointments to An Bord Pleanála, for example, and appointments to prison visiting committees. It is obvious that decisions made by An Bord Pleanála which was mentioned many times during the debate last night are often of fundamental importance to communities. The public can only have confidence in the decisions of a body such as An Bord Pleanála if it has confidence in the people making those decisions. The only way people can have confidence in such decisions is if they are fully aware of the appointments, if they are told why individuals are being appointed, if they are satisfied that appointees have no vested interests, if they are happy that the appointees will act impartially in making decisions and if they are convinced that appointees will act in the common good. A change in the system of making appointments to public bodies is needed if such a level of confidence is to be achieved. Despite what I said about the establishment of another Oireachtas committee, it may be appropriate to provide for a committee to vet appointments to bodies such as An Bord Pleanála. That might be the only democratic way of verifying that the system is transparent and open. It is not alleged that all appointments made under the present system are suspect. In many cases, people offer their time and experience for a minimal allowance.

That is right.

As almost 500 public bodies with a national remit are in operation — there were just 80 such bodies in 1980 — in effect, approximately 5,000 appointments at national level are in the gift of the Government. The public bodies which have a combined annual expenditure of €13 billion not only need to be accountable but also need to be seen to be accountable and transparent in the decisions they make.

I welcome the Green Party's decision to raise the issue of the manner of the appointment of individuals to public bodies. I have often raised this issue in the House during my ten years as a Deputy.

The State's system of public appointments is rife with patronage; it is anti-democratic and open to mass abuse. Fianna Fáil has been a past master in this regard, but only because it is the party which has spent the longest time in government since the foundation of the State. All the political parties which have spent time in government throughout the history of the State have used their positions, where possible, to promote party members or supporters to the boards of public bodies. Individuals were appointed to prestigious State boards because they were hacks of the political parties which happened to be in power. They were not appointed because of any expertise they were able to bring to the position. Such behaviour constitutes a gross abuse of public bodies, State and semi-State industries, the employees of those industries and taxpayers.

Five outgoing Fianna Fáil Ministers stuffed 60 nominees onto a range of State boards after the 2002 general election, before a new Government was put in place. During last autumn's controversy involving the payment of money to the Taoiseach, it emerged that five of the Taoiseach's 12 friends who assisted him financially had been appointed to important public bodies in the State, including Aer Lingus, the Central Bank, the Dublin Port Authority and Enterprise Ireland. The Taoiseach let it slip that they had been appointed because they were friends of his. Such a system is rotten to the core. There is no question about this.

I would like to highlight another key factor which is separate to the cronyism evident in the way State boards have been appointed by Governments and the political parties which have comprised those Governments. It seems Governments appoint their ideological friends to these positions. Persons who are in favour of privatisation, for example, are appointed to key positions in public bodies. When the Government disgracefully moved to privatise Aer Lingus, a crucial public body, were those on the board so committed to public ownership that they were prepared to voice publicly their opposition to the disgraceful proposal? It was radically opposed by representatives of the workers and the trade unions, as well as many other members of society.

I welcome this debate and I am pleased Deputy Boyle has raised this issue. The Socialist Party would take a more radical approach than that envisaged in this legislation. The boards of crucial State companies such as Aer Lingus should be democratically elected, rather than appointed. The board of Aer Lingus, for example, should be elected from among that company's workers who over decades have developed the State and semi-State company in question into a premier service for the people, making enormous sacrifices along the way. They know inside out how the company and its services operate and how such operations could be greatly improved. The users of the services of State and semi-State companies should be democratically elected to the boards of such companies. People who regularly travel on and use the services of Aer Lingus for their work or holiday and personal travel should be allowed to bring their expertise to the board. This model could be applied to bodies across the spectrum of Irish society, including the health service, which would be transformed if they were opened to the fresh winds of democratic accountability and the democratic election of those who run them, rather than being subject by Government diktat to further layers of bureaucracy at the top.

Mar fhocal scoir, cuirim fáilte roimh an díospóireacht seo, atá curtha ar aghaidh ag an Chomhaontas Ghlas, atá ag iarraidh athchóiriú a dhéanamh ar an bpróiséas ceapacháin chomhaltaí na boird agus chomhlachtaí Stáit, agus postanna speisialta áirithe eile. Ba cheart go mbeadh an próiséas daonlathach amach is amach. Ní ceart go mbeadh an Rialtas in ann a chairde fhéin a shá isteach sna boird tábhachtacha seo ar mhaithe leis na hAirí agus na páirtithe polaitíochta a chruthaigh an chóras a bhí agus atá ann go dtí an pointe seo. Ba cheart go ndéanfaí córas daonlathach, ina gcuirfí chun cinn lucht oibre — na daoine a úsáideann an tseirbhís — agus go rachfaidís ar aghaidh chun a bheith tofa go dtí na boird seo, agus chun seirbhís dá bhrí sin a chur ar fáil agus comhlachtaí a thógaint ar aghaidh a n-oibreódh i ndáiríre mar sheirbhís do mhuintir na tíre seo.

I propose to share time with the Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen. This Private Members' Bill proposes new procedures for the appointment of the chair and boards of public bodies and for special appointments to international bodies that are currently at the discretion of the Government. We do not support the Bill. The practices and procedures adopted by this Government follow those adopted by previous Governments. A strong public sector has evolved, delivering a range of services very effectively. The House must be mindful of the contribution made by such people and refrain from procedures that would deter rather than attract people to positions on public bodies.

I listened to the proposals of Deputy Joe Higgins, which smack of McCarthyism. I can think of several supporters of other political parties and Members of this House who were appointed by this Government and other Governments led by Fianna Fáil and served the State. One example is the former leader of the Opposition, Mr. Alan Dukes, whom we appointed to head the Agri-Vision committee to examine the agricultural industry up to 2020. He did an outstanding job. To say that we only appoint our colleagues is crazy.

Council colleagues are appointed to prison visiting committees.

The arrangements for the composition of and appointments to the boards of State bodies is usually set out in legislation establishing the bodies. Normally these appointments are made by the Minister with responsibility for the body, subject to the consent of the Minister for Finance. Ministers must consider the merits of the appointees and ensure they have appropriate skills and experience for the position. Ministers are answerable to this House for such appointments. They need flexibility to choose members of State boards. The range of skills and experience needed for the board of a major commercial State company is significantly different from that of a small regulatory body, of which there are many under the aegis of the Department of Health and Children. There is nothing wrong with the current system and the success of our commercial State bodies supports the view that the boards appointed in the past worked exceedingly well.

Deputy Boyle's Bill does not have due regard to the nature of State bodies. Such bodies report to the Minister who has sectoral responsibility for them. The joint committees of these Houses have the authority to call in the chairman and top management of each State body. In most cases such bodies were established by legislation that sets out functions and responsibilities of the Minister and Department. These include the functions performed by the body, the submission of annual reports and accounts, borrowing, pay and pension matters, recruitment of staff, increases in fees or prices as well as other matters. Ministers also set out the policy to be followed. I doubt such people would wish to reply to advertisements and compete for positions. Such an approach is appropriate for employing people within organisations but not as directors or chairpersons of State bodies, which is fundamentally different from full-time employment. Tapping the experience of business people has been useful to the public sector, particularly for State companies and advisory groups. Such groups have advised Governments on policies and strategies.

Once a prospective board member accepts the offer of a position, he is subject to a range of legislative guidelines, notably the Ethics Act and the code of practice for the governance of State bodies. In October 2001 the Minister for Finance published the code of practice for the governance of State bodies, which was formally approved by the Government as binding on all State bodies. The code stresses the code of conduct for directors and employees. These should be in written form and a template in the code acts as a guide. All State bodies must also have an internal audit function or engage external expertise. The code also refers to procurement and disposal of assets and sets out a framework for best practice, corporate governance of State bodies and principles of quality customer service.

Membership of the board of a State body is a demanding role. The stringent requirements imposed by the Government bring significant responsibilities for all directors and a high degree of accountability. The Ethics Act, the Ethics in Public Office Act and the Standards in Public Office Act also have implications for directors. The Ethics Act requires directors of prescribed public bodies to make a declaration of interest to a nominated officer of the body such as the chairperson of the board or a company secretary.

The proposed Bill is heavy-handed and bureaucratic. It would make it difficult to recruit appropriate people to State bodies and advisory groups. The Bill includes all executive bodies, advisory bodies and task forces. Up to 600 bodies must be considered by the Oireachtas committee for the purposes of deciding who comes within the remit of the Bill, a considerable task.

The role proposed by the Bill for the committee, to review all the procedures in place for the appointment of chairpersons and board members of existing public bodies and to establish a listing of those appointments which should henceforth come under the new procedures set out under the Bill within one year, would impose a complex administrative task on any Oireachtas committee. No criteria are provided in the Bill to select the bodies that must come within the remit of this Bill. How will the committee make the decision? What is an appropriate body to which this Bill should apply?

The procedures set out in Deputy Boyle's Bill would involve the establishment of a public appointments unit in the office of the Commission for Public Service Appointments, the advertising of all public appointments and the holding of public recruitment competitions for all positions. In addition, the appointments would be ratified by a joint Oireachtas committee. These procedures are disproportionate and unwieldy and likely to deter rather than attract suitable persons. Sections 17 and 18 deal with the dismissal of a chairman or board member. Provisions dealing with dismissal suggest a lack of understanding of the public service ethos on which we rely when filling the positions on boards of public bodies.

The current arrangements for appointments to State bodies are workable, practicable and help recruit people from whom the entire public service benefits. There is no reason to discourage energetic, dedicated people with a proven track record from being appointed to State bodies by the Government of the day.

I am not convinced of the need for the Bill. The current system for appointing people to State bodies has been in existence for a long time. It has worked well. Governments of various hues have tapped into the advice and experience of experts, business people and professionals, which has informed Government and helped to make progress. The Bill is drafted to include State bodies, boards, advisory groups and other agencies. Much of the comment has focused on board members of State bodies.

Many people who have successful careers in non-public work will not apply to be interviewed and vetted as proposed by this Bill. Busy people who, when approached by Government to do some public service, may respond positively when offered a position on an advisory group or State body but would be unlikely to push forward to seek positions. State companies have progressed over the years in part because of the boards that oversee development. Other groups have advised Governments on economic and social policy and have contributed in this way. I see no reason to change to a cumbersome and bureaucratic system. The system is not perfect but Deputy Boyle's proposals would not lead to a better system.

My ministerial colleague, Deputy Parlon, set out the reasons we oppose the Bill, the purpose of which is not clear. Where is the value added? The Deputy referred to a crisis of confidence in our State bodies but I have not detected it.

The taskforce on active citizenship released its report today. The Minister should read it. Public confidence in politics is very low.

It is amazing that party membership should mean disbarment from public service.

I did not say that. It should not be the sole criteria.

I understand Deputy Boyle will close the debate. I am entitled to speak uninterruptedly in the House.

I have learned from the Minister's combative style.

If that is the case, fine. I am just making the point to the Deputy that I have been Minister for Transport, Industry and Communications in charge of commercial State bodies. I have been Minister for Health, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Finance. On all of the board appointments I make I seek to appoint competent people. I do not regard political party membership as a precondition for eligibility, but neither do I regard it as a disbarment. That is a fair and honest assessment of the situation. This politically correct culture which espouses that to be a member of a political party is potentially a subversive activity, prohibiting one from meeting the required standards set down by State-sponsored bodies is a non-runner. I am sorry but the evidence is not with the Deputies opposite on this.

That is not the issue.

I am sorry but the evidence is not with the Deputies on this. That is the point. They bring their prejudices to the legislation and expect us all to agree with it.

It is based on experience. How many party members has the Minister appointed?

I have outlined my experiences, as a Member of this House for 23 years. I challenge the Deputies to find any board under my aegis which did not comply with requirements. In fact I have reappointed——

It is the Minister's colleagues we worry about.

——-many people who were appointed by my predecessors, of other political parties, and who might not have shared my political view at all, because I regarded them as people who had done a very good job and shown a commitment to public service. They had shown a particular flair and ability as regards the boards to which they were assigned. I have done that——

Would the Minister say the same for his Cabinet colleagues?

——on many occasions. The Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 and the Standards in Public Office Act 2001 requires the directors of prescribed public bodies to provide annual statements of interests to a nominated officer of the body concerned such as a chairperson of the board or the company secretary. The statements of interest must also be given to the Standards in Public Office Commission. The type of interests that are to be disclosed include details of occupation, shares, other directorships, land, travel or accommodation services provided at less than the commercial price, public service contracts, gifts etc. Directors may also voluntarily disclose other interests not listed in the legislation. If a director needs to carry out a task and discovers he or she has a material interest in it, he or she must inform the other directors. A director must not perform such a task unless there are compelling reasons to do so, and in the event, he or she must inform both the other directors and the Standards in Public Office Commission as regards the compelling reasons.

I remind Deputes that the code of practice for the governance of State bodies also seeks to ensure that all State bodies are governed to the best possible extent in line with best practice. The purpose of the code is to provide a governance framework within which the internal management and internal and external reporting of relationships of State bodies is to take place. The framework within which boards must operate is set by the code. It provides board members with the way in which to measure their actions.

Deputy Gogarty referred to instances where former employees take up work after leaving the public service. I am not sure how this Bill would affect employees. However, there are procedures in place both in the Civil Service and the local authority area regarding the acceptance of outside appointments and consultancy engagements following resignation or retirement. In the Civil Service the code of standards and behaviour provides that a civil servant should not accept an appointment or particular consultancy project where he or she believes the nature and terms of such an appointment could lead to a conflict of interest or the perception of such, without first obtaining the approval of the outside appointments board established under the code, or of the Secretary General or head of office, as appropriate. Additionally, civil servants who hold positions which are designated posts for the purpose of the Ethics in Public Office Acts must, within 12 months of resigning or retiring, obtain the approval of the outside appointments board or the Secretary General or head of office, as appropriate, before taking up any outside appointment. Similar provisions now apply in the local authority area.

Deputy Sargent spoke about the composition of school boards of management. This proposed Bill would not affect such boards. Boards of management are put in place in line with the legislation and are not appointed by the State. Deputy Eamon Ryan referred to pension entitlements of board members. I am not sure what he is referring to here since, in general, it is only the chief executive officer and staff of boards who hold pensionable positions.

I welcome the point made by Deputy Paul McGrath. It is one I have mentioned already, to the effect that some people with great experience will be unwilling to apply for posts, but might agree to a request from Government to serve. Any system must not be such so as to deprive people of the opportunity to use their experience for the good of the country.

In conclusion, I reiterate that the current system has worked well. It is an appropriate system for appointments to various State groups. This system allows us to benefit from the wide experience of people and allows them to do valuable public service. If there are instances under this system where that has not happened, there are accountability mechanisms that can ensure no reappointment. If there is a clear issue where people are not competent in a particular area, their unsuitability will become obvious fairly quickly. It is in line with the tradition of citizens’ and public service in terms of the appointments system as it exists. This Bill would not enhance matters. Instead, it would reduce the attractiveness of taking up public service and make it difficult to draw on the necessary experience and expertise that has been available to Governments in the past.

I am sharing time with Deputies Cuffe and Boyle. I commend Deputy Boyle for drafting this legislation. Two of my colleagues won awards this evening for best politician and best TD, Deputies Sargent and Eamon Ryan. Deputy Boyle deserved to get something, but perhaps next year when he is serving in Government he will get an award.

I very much welcome the opportunity to speak on this legislation. I listened earlier, briefly, to Deputy O'Connor. He is a fine guy and I get on with him, but he said something which caught my attention, namely, that he was appointed to various boards simply because he was an active member of the community. I am sure he is a very active member of the community and he reminds the House all the time what he does for Tallaght. However, I believe that is not the only reason he was appointed. His links to Fianna Fáil were another very good reason for his appointments to boards. It is clear that board appointments are regarded as the spoils of war after an election.

I know this from my experience on Dublin City Council when the Green Party had the opportunity to be a minor player at local government level when we formed a coalition with Fine Gael, the Labour Party and independent councillors. We had the opportunity then to select people for board membership and we did that. The point that has been made here is relevant. We discovered that it sometimes was difficult to get people, particularly when the position was not remunerated. However, if a position is paid well, many people would like such a placement and while the Minister might say that at all times he acted in the public interest, if he is to be absolutely honest, I am sure he knows of people on boards and wondered why, in God's name, they were appointed. Too often the reason for such appointments is that they know someone.

That is the difficultly. As a result of that, as I have discussed with many colleagues in Opposition, Fianna Fáil has this wonderful network throughout the country of people it has appointed. Even when it is out of Government and in Opposition, it has key people all over the place. It has this very powerful network at all levels of the community. It never ceases to amaze me when fine people pop up and then at election time one sees them canvassing with Fianna Fáil. I am not saying——

Is that a crime?

No, it is not a crime or a subversive activity and we have not said that.

I thank the Deputy very much.

I am saying they were appointed because of their party political connections. It is not a crime in any sense to be a member of a political party, and——-

That is a big concession.

——I am not suggesting the "de-Fianna Fáilification" of society.

That is an interesting idea.

It is worthy of discussion.

It is an interesting idea. Some people may believe that is a fantastic idea and perhaps it is worthy of further debate.

Even I do, sometimes.

It is a fact that elsewhere such decisions are made in a different way. At our press conference I mentioned the example of the UK, from which we could learn. I know of people there, with no party political affiliations, who have been appointed on merit alone and because they fulfil certain criteria. That is the example we need to follow. It is not about getting bogged down in bureaucracy but about fairness and merit and, as a result, making our society more effective.

This Bill is about merit rather than patronage. There are still too many village chieftains in politics. There are too many pork barrel politicians who dispense the spoils of office to those who have helped them along the way. For far too long appointments have depended on who one knows rather than what one knows.

Or both.

The Green Party is simply proposing that the best person is found for a job rather than someone who knows the person appointing him or her. For example, women only account for 25% of State board appointments when it should be 50%. It is happening because the Minister for Finance and his pals around him — mainly fellas — know lads whom they get appointed.

I do not see too many women on the Green Party's benches.

We are working on it.

We are waiting.

That is why the Green Party is suggesting it should not be within the remit of the fellas in Dáil Éireann to make these appointments. The Green Party suggests it be taken away from the chieftains and given to an impartial body which can chose from the credentials of the right woman or man for the job.

We are elected to make decisions. The Deputy will find this out in due course.

I thank the Minister for his confidence in us.

The Bill proposes the establishment of an appointments to public bodies unit, an Oireachtas joint committee on pubic appointments, and to provide for a Dáil vote of approval for special appointments such as those to international organisations.

Who would appoint the members of the appointments to public bodies unit?

An Bord Pleanála would do a better job if the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, did not have the final say on who was appointed to the board.

Who picks the board?

A peace commissioner should not be appointed by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell.

On a point of information, will the Deputy give way for the purposes of the debate?

It is patently a political appointment to be a peace commissioner. If there is any role for a peace commissioner, it should be that of administering justice which should be beyond the party political remit. The Green Party wants change in this area. There have been many questionable appointments due to the existing system.

If one examines the prison visiting committees appointed by the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, was there something special about the people of County Kerry that they got most of the jobs? Were there other factors at play?

What do prison visiting committees do?

That is village chieftain politics rather than the politics of merit. I would rather see the politics of merit come to the fore. Last year when the members of the heritage trust were appointed, the Minister responsible, Deputy Roche, ignored An Taisce. If that is not spite, what is it? I cannot believe he passed over some of the people who have contributed most to the protection, preservation and conservation of towns, villages and houses. There is something strange afoot.

Nonsense.

The same Minister has appointed 400 persons to the boards of public bodies, while the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has appointed 1,900 in the past five years. Is it correct for Ministers to make such appointments?

What is democratic accountability about?

Can I be allowed speak without interruptions from the gentlemen across the floor?

Will the Deputy take a question?

I am happy to take questions in the Minister's time but not mine.

If he does not wish to take a question, will he just indicate so?

Can I have my time?

On a point of order, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle——

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, can I be allowed to finish?

It is not normal practice to take questions during Private Members' time.

Is there a procedure to ask a Deputy a question?

If the Member gives way.

At what stage does he indicate he gives way? Does he say yes or no?

The Minister is losing his head. He must be preparing for opposition.

Is this a new principle from the Minister? I would like to see him give some of his time.

It is just a matter of clarification. If the Deputy does not give way, must he indicate so?

If he does not wish to give way, that is fine.

This is not the House of Commons.

He has indicated he does not want to give way.

I would like to use my slot. As we do not get that much speaking time in the House, we use it to our best ability. The Minister gets much more time to speak.

It is proportionate to one's mandate.

Many bodies such as Transparency International and the Democracy Commission have called for reform in this area. Even the task force on active citizenship noted the lack of public confidence in the bodies which the Government appoints. Many countries such as New Zealand, Australia and Canada have reformed their appointments processes. Appointments must be made on merit, not the individual preferences of Ministers.

I thank those Members who have contributed to the debate, particularly the Minister for Finance. I admit yesterday I was discouraged on hearing the contribution of the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Parlon. He represents the junior partner in the Government, a party which set out to break the mould in politics but has ended up supping from the bowl more deeply than any other party. The gist of his contribution was that everything was all right. It was obvious from his contribution that matters are not all right.

The members of the boards of over 600 State and public bodies are appointed by ministerial diktat. They come to 6,000 people. Since 1980 the increase has been tenfold. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has appointed close on 2,000 people to State boards; the Department of Health and Children, 1,400 people; yet, we are to take this for granted as good public governance. It is not.

On the day the Taoiseach wrapped himself in the cloak of respectability with the launch of the report of the task force on active citizenship——

He commissioned the report.

The report states there is widespread disenchantment with the quality of public life. That is feeding down to the way people contribute to normal community and civic life.

The report states the opposite.

Until we are prepared to grasp this as a problem, it will only be perpetuated. The first action must be to recognise 600 public and State bodies and 6,000 appointments need to be rationalised. The Green Party's proposed public appointments unit would have this as its first task. An appointments procedure must be open, transparent and encourage public confidence. The current system does not do this.

I accept the majority of State appointees are people who are civic-minded. Many of them, however, are also appointed on the basis of who they are and where they come from.

What is the Deputy's problem with that?

If they are public bodies——

In many instances, if I appoint a person to a board, do I not need to know who he or she is?

They must properly reflect the society they represent. The Minister cannot pretend the way in which current public bodies are appointed and their composition properly reflect society. Instead, they represent particular slanted interests.

Not at all. That is what is wrong with the Green Party approach.

Until we have a system that goes beyond this, the slanted interests system will remain in perpetuity.

I would like to respond to some of the criticisms of the Bill, some of which were valid. The point of a Second Stage debate is to accept the concept of a Bill and to let it proceed to Committee Stage, on which amendments can be accepted that will improve the Bill. We propose that ministerial responsibility in this regard should be maintained and it can be further enhanced by the Minister accepting a number of nominations from, what we propose to be, the commission on public appointments and the ultimate selection can be made subsequently, which would be ratified by either a specified Oireachtas committee or an existing committee. That could be teased out on Committee Stage.

I take issue with the point that proposing two methods of assessment and ratification is an over-bureaucratisation of the process. Hundreds of items of legislation govern our systems of public appointments and the approach to it is overly bureaucratic. Our proposals would simplify the system, which is badly in need of simplification.

As regards the notion of people being too exalted in our Republic to be asked to account for themselves in terms of being servants on public bodies, the system could be modified in the sense that people could directly apply by public advertisement or the public advertisement could be phrased in such a way that people could be nominated by the public advertisement to go to the bodies that we propose for their assessment. What we propose is an open system such as that which exists in other jurisdictions. The Minister may not like it now or for the eight weeks remaining of the 29th Dáil but he will have to think hard about this because whatever government replaces the current Government on the benches opposite——

Give me a break.

——will have to seriously consider these types of reforms.

I listened to this cant 12 years ago as well.

Otherwise the party on this bench, and expecting to be on the benches opposite in a number of weeks' time——

I am glad to have an opportunity to come back in. This is nonsense.

——will not offer that level of support. I ask the House to support this Bill.

Hear, hear.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 50; Níl, 58.

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Cowley, Jerry.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McHugh, Paddy.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Upton, Mary.

Níl

  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Tony.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Donnell, Liz.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Malley, Tim.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Boyle and Stagg; Níl, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher.
Question declared lost.