Tuesday, 27 November 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: Section 11(1) of the Public Service Management Act, 1997, makes provision for the appointment of special advisers to my office. As provided for in section 11(3) of the Act, the terms and conditions of these appointments are subject to determination by the Minister for Finance. Excluding orders to cover the terms of these posts are requested from the Civil Service Commission, as required, by the Department of Finance.
|Gerry Hickey||special adviser/programme manager|
|Martin Mansergh||special adviser on NI/economic and social matters|
|Gerard Howlin||special adviser|
|Peter MacDonagh||special adviser|
|Barbara Jones||special adviser (civil servant on secondment from Department of Foreign Affairs)|
|Una Claffey||political adviser|
Mr. Noonan: Will any of these advisers be involved in the Fianna Fáil general election campaign? If that is the Taoiseach's intention, will they resign in advance of the campaign from the positions they hold at present as civil servants?
Mr. Noonan: What is normal does not necessarily apply, as we found out on Question Time last week. The Taoiseach is already using civil servants in his communications unit for political purposes. Does the Taoiseach intend using his special advisers, who are now public servants, as party activists in the course of the general election campaign?
Two weeks ago when the Taoiseach was asked about the purchase by the State of the Battle of the Boyne site he confirmed that one of his political advisers had been involved in his private capacity in the course of the £8 million deal. Because of the many questions which remain unanswered about this issue, does the Taoiseach now agree that it is unwise for people who advise him in the manner he has described in his answer to be also involved privately in business where there could be, or where it could be made to seem there is, a conflict of interest, especially when so much taxpayers' money is involved? Will the Taoiseach discontinue this practice in respect of his current advisers and make this part of the terms and conditions of their employment?
The Taoiseach: In relation to Civil Service advisers, a protocol, that is a draft Civil Service code on standards and behaviour, is being developed by the Department of Finance. It has been laid before the House and has been referred to the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service. Provision is being made in that code to include its applicability to the various posts which are set out in it. That is before the House. Political advisers or advisers to the Government are also answerable under the Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995, the application of which is overseen by the Public Offices Commission. They will be covered by the new code as well as by the Ethics in Public Office Act.
With regard to the other issue raised by Deputy Noonan, I stated that the person involved in the Battle of the Boyne site was a friend of mine, not a political adviser. He has been a friend of mine for 20 to 25 years. He is not a political adviser and he has never worked for me, either in a voluntary or public capacity. He is not a civil servant but is involved in business.
In today's world it would be far better if people well known to one were not involved in anything. I was surprised when I discovered the person in  question was involved in that issue. I said that to the Deputy two weeks ago and I repeat it now.
Mr. Noonan: Will the Taoiseach advise the House that those listed as his advisers in one capacity or another are not engaged in any outside business activity which is an undeclared conflict of interest or could be deemed to be one?
The Taoiseach: That is my understanding. They must make full and detailed declarations, the arbiter of which is part of the remit of the Public Office Commission. To the best of my knowledge, none of them has great material needs, other than one who is a part-time farmer.
Mr. Noonan: Last week the Taoiseach's brief did not contain information on the full cost of the communications unit, especially regarding the salaries of the civil servants seconded from other Departments. Does he have this information now and will he indicate the annual salary of each of the persons mentioned in his original reply?
The Taoiseach: I understand that information has been forwarded. I did not have it last week and I appreciate the Deputy's comment to that effect. I sent him a letter with the details. I have not got the information with me. It is not relevant to this question.
Mr. Noonan: Last week, questions were submitted by Deputy Quinn and I concerning the same issue. Deputy Quinn's question specifically requested details of the budget of the communications unit. The Taoiseach outlined the cost of the unit to his Department but he did not include the salaries of the civil servants seconded to the Department. In the letter he sent to me this was detailed as an additional cost of £169,000 per annum. Over a five year period that amounts to a significant sum. It constitutes the main cost of the unit. Is it the case that, again, the Taoiseach does not have information on the cost of the salaries of these advisers? If not, will he look at his brief and read out their annual salaries?
An Ceann Comhairle: The Chair decides what is a legitimate supplementary question. There is no reference to salaries in Question No. 1, which is concerned with the names of advisers and their duties. The correct procedure for the Deputy is to table a specific question.
Mr. Noonan: Many of us in the House have been Ministers and we know what is contained in  a brief to parliamentary questions. We know civil servants normally include the material which allows Ministers answer questions about costs. That is a given. I am asking the Taoiseach to read out the annual salaries.
The Taoiseach: Perhaps I can help the Chair. I understood Deputy Noonan to be concerned with last week's question. He asked me if I now had information he requested last week. I assumed he was concerned about the information I promptly forwarded to him.
Mr. Noonan: It is very unusual for annual salaries to have pence, so I take it the Taoiseach has given the amounts paid to these advisers so far in this calendar year, or has he given their annual salaries? It sounds like the amount paid to date.
Mr. Shatter: In light of the figures given by the Taoiseach, will he confirm that he attaches far greater value to each of his special advisers than to Fianna Fáil backbenchers, who on a basic Dáil salary would all receive less than the advisers?
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