Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
1. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the role, if any, to be played by special advisers in advising him on the persons to be appointed as Secretaries General in his Department; and which guidelines, if any, concerning conflicts of interest are being applied to persons involved in the appointment process. [15010/11]
The position is unchanged from that I outlined in the House on 1 June. Expressions of interest were sought and have been received. All suitable officers, regardless of whether they submitted an expression of interest, will be considered before a decision is made by the Government. In accordance with established practice, the filling of these posts is a matter for the Government. The expressions of interest made, and other suitable candidates, are being considered by the Tánaiste and me in respect of a second post of Secretary General in my Department. Therefore, no conflict of interest in respect of any other person arises. I expect a recommendation will be made to the Government for appointment to these posts in the course of the coming weeks. Special advisers have no function in these appointments.
Deputy Micheál Martin: Given that this is the procedure used for appointing the new Secretary General with responsibility for public expenditure and reform, which the Taoiseach will, no doubt, also examine, is he satisfied with the procedures used for filling that role? It is almost three months since the media were briefed that these jobs were being filled as a matter of urgency and that, in themselves, they represented a major reform. The closing date for applications was 18 April. What has happened to delay the appointments?
The Taoiseach: The Minister for public expenditure and reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, with approval by the Government, has appointed a Secretary General and is very happy with the outcome of that process. I expect the appointment of the second post of Secretary General in the Department of the Taoiseach will be finalised in a very short period. That Secretary General will report to the Tánaiste in respect of the economic management council and to me on the co-ordination of European matters.
For the Deputy’s information, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, is in the final process of seeking Government approval for appointment of a Secretary General to her Department. The position of Secretary General to the Government, as first secretary in my Department, will also be filled in due course.
An Ceann Comhairle: The question Deputy Martin asked relates to appointments in the Department of the Taoiseach, not the Department of Finance. The question put to the Taoiseach refers to the appointment of “Secretaries General in his Department”
Deputy Micheál Martin: In light of the delay in filling the position referred to in Question No. 2, will the Taoiseach reconsider his decision not to publicly advertise the position of the second Secretary General in his Department? He praised himself last week for his reform of the appointments system. Therefore, does he not think he might use the reform process in filling this position? The Taoiseach mentioned the position of Secretary General in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Will that position be filled by public appointment or public advertisement outside the public service?
The Taoiseach: I do not regard this as an inordinate delay. There has been a pretty hefty programme of legislation and events in recent weeks. The recent period has provided an opportunity to reflect, in the general interest of everybody, on the range of qualities of the people to be appointed. It is clear that the two positions in the Department of the Taoiseach are important. The people to be appointed and approved by the Government will be required to have a thorough working knowledge of the mechanics of how the Government and the public service operate. They will also have to exhibit enthusiasm and exuberance for the jobs in which they have expressed an interest and for which they are being considered. The two positions in question — the Secretaries General in the Department of the Taoiseach — require a measure of experience and understanding of how the system works.
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