I am raising the issue of appointments to State boards in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport because I would like to hear the Minister's proposals to fill the vacancies that exist. The volume of vacancies in the Department is quite phenomenal. My understanding, which is based on the figures I have seen, is that on 23 November last there were 36 vacancies across the various agencies under the Minister's remit. There are three vacancies in Iarnród Éireann, which has many issues, as we all know. There are vacancies in the Road Safety Authority and Sport Ireland. Some very important chairmanships are coming up as well. A further 16 places will become vacant by the end of the year, including a number of important roles and chairmanships. This is all public information. I have drawn it from information provided by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.
Why is the Minister not filling these positions? Does he believe he is fulfilling his mandate - his seal of office - and doing his job on behalf of Irish taxpayers, which is to ensure all of these agencies are functioning to the best of their ability? Given that the Minister has made virtually no appointments - there have been some appointees - how can we be certain that many of these boards have the expertise to function? A range of organisations with massive budgets need auditors and people with audit and financial experience. Will the Minister confirm to the House that expertise in finance and other specialist areas is available across the suite of organisations under his remit to meet the needs of those organisations at board level? I want him to give the House a guarantee that this is the case. Why is the Minister not filling these positions? There is a need across these boards for these positions to be filled.
I have spoken to some of the people involved in these organisations. They simply cannot function if these roles are not filled. I have spoken to the chair of one of the larger and more important organisations under the Minister's remit. He told me that if this impasse continues for the next few weeks, the board of the organisation in question will not be able to function at the optimum level because it will not have the expertise in place. Will the Minister confirm to the House that he has met every chair of every organisation within his remit, or at least the chairs of the larger critically important organisations across the wide range of organisations under his remit? Will he confirm to me that he has the knowledge, capacity and awareness to be assured that despite the failure to fill these vacancies, he is not concerned that these boards will not be able to function? Does he trust his officials? Does he believe the Public Appointments Service system is fit for purpose? Does he trust that system? Does he trust his officials to put in front of him the names of people who are competent enough to fill these vital positions? If he does, why is he not accepting the Public Appointments Service system and the recommendations of his officials who give him a list from which to choose?