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04 Jul 2022

Green Party leader accused of cronyism by TD over appointments to climate council

Green Party leader accused of cronyism by TD over appointments to climate council

Green Party leader accused of cronyism by TD over appointments to climate council

The Minister for the Environment has been accused of cronyism over the appointments of two people known to him to the Climate Change Advisory Council. 

Deputy Pearse Doherty made the accusation in the Dáil yesterday (November 18th), stating, "A number of weeks ago, the Minister appointed two friends to the Climate Change Advisory Council despite a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Climate Action that there should be an open, competitive and transparent process attached to such appointments. Cronyism is at the heart of how this Government does its business. That is without doubt." 

The Council's purpose is to advise Ireland on the transition to a low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050. 

Dr Cara Augustenborg and Dr Morgan D Bazilian were identified by The Irish Times as two people known to the minister who were appointed to the Council with two others in October 2021. 

According to the Department of the Environment, Dr Augustenborg is an Environmental Policy Fellow at UCD with a Doctorate in Environmental science and engineering, while Dr Bazilian has two Masters degrees and a PhD related to energy systems and markets. 

At the time of the appointments, Minister Ryan had said, "A critical part of our transition to a low carbon society is the provision of accurate and timely advice. The Climate Change Advisory Council needs to have a broad and diverse balance of skills and experience that will advise Government on both carbon budgets and progress on implementation of the Climate Action Plan." 

Deputy Doherty yesterday called for more transparency about appointments, referencing the recent Katherine Zappone appointment scandal. 

The deputy told the Dáil, "During the summer, there was the Zapponegate scenario, where Fine Gael was appointing a former Minister into a made-up job paid for the public purse." 

He stated the public expected "higher standards" from the Green Party and said, "Once the Minister had the opportunity to dole out jobs for his friends, he was shown to be just as capable as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are at doling out those jobs. I know that the two members appointed are eminently qualified. Their qualifications are not in question. That is not the issue.  One of these individuals was a former special adviser to the Minister. The other was a Green Party election candidate. These positions are paid from the public purse, at €10,000 per year, with travel and subsistence claims on top of that. They are paid for by the taxpayer. The taxpayer deserves no less than a transparent, open and accountable process but the Minister let the taxpayers down." 

Minister Ryan rejected Deputy Doherty's accusation and said, "This council was appointed exactly as is set out in the law." 

He continued: "If I excluded people on the basis of having worked with me or knowing me in the past, that would not serve the Irish people well. As the Deputy said, the individuals that he mentioned absolutely have the necessary skills. I stand over the process. I believe it was correct and it was followed to the letter of the law." 

Deputy Doherty didn't accept the minister's response and stated more than once that his actions didn't follow the guidelines of the Joint Committee. 

Minister Ryan continued: "The advisory council is well constituted and has done a good job to date. It will serve not just this Government but the next one. I do not believe that it will in any way reflect any partisan or other interests because someone might have worked with me in the past, or because there are 15 people on it from a range of diverse backgrounds." 

An Ceann Comhairle informed Deputy Doherty he was out of order when he stated, "No. It was not open, not transparent, not fair and against the guidelines. The Minister had an option. He could have done it openly." 

The matter was concluded as both the deputy and the minister had gone over time. 

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