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Fianna Fáil bred culture of corruption, cronyism and golden handshakes – Ferris

6 October, 2009 - by Martin Ferris TD


Speaking during Private Members’ Business on the scandal at FÁS this evening Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris said accused Fianna Fáil of breeding a culture of corruption, cronyism and golden handshakes.

He said the Tánaiste should resign as she has stood over the indecent golden handshake to disgraced former Director General Rody Molloy and has shown herself incapable of addressing the unemployment crisis and getting FÁS doing the job it is funded to do.

Deputy Ferris said, “Reform has to be implemented as quickly as possible. Sinn Féin have already called for the Tánaiste to resign – she has stood over the indecent golden handshake to disgraced former Director General Rody Molloy and has shown herself incapable of addressing the unemployment crisis and getting FÁS doing the job it is funded to do.

“Rody Molloy should have been sacked, fired, booted out and shamed for his wholly disgraceful behaviour in FÁS. But he wasn’t. He was allowed to resign and save face after having squandered millions of euros of taxpayers’ money.

“What we have seen is double standards in Government; Government officials across the board looking after their own, making sure they get a little extra something while workers across the state are feeling this recession harder than anyone else.

“Where was the government intervention and support when, for example, the Thomas Cook workers had to protest and haul themselves up in Thomas Cook headquarters, when they were brought before the High Court for seeking a decent remuneration for themselves? I’ll tell you where it was – it was in seedy backroom negotiations with Rody Molloy, fluffing up his nest egg and giving him a pat on the back.

“How was this allowed to happen? The answer is simply that the Fianna Fáil government has bred this culture of corruption, cronyism and indeed golden handshakes. Indeed NAMA is a case in point: the only beneficiaries of this government intervention will be the bankers and developers. There is no NAMA for ordinary people.” ENDS


Full text of Deputy Ferris’ speech follows:

What benefit or advantage have those left unemployed by a Government fuelled recession accrued from the scandal at FÁS? Was too much money spent on training initiatives for the unemployed, on employment schemes? If any excess in expenditure should arise in FÁS, it should be related to actually training, up-skilling and providing employment opportunities for the thousands of people left unemployed.

There was a massive institutionalised wastage of public funds by government and the senior management of FÁS. Who would have thought that the main beneficiaries in the State training and employment authority were those secure enough in their jobs to go off holidaying in Florida, while the recession hit those who needed FÁS hardest.

Today we see the publication of the Labour Services (Amendment) Bill and, while we welcome actions to improve the governance of and strengthen the accountability at FÁS, some of the provisions are laughable. The greatest farce has to be the power bestowed to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in consultation with the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Education and Science to select members of the board of FÁS. This is the very Minister for ETE who gave Rody Molloy the extremely generous golden handshake on his way out without getting legal advice. The Minister should not be empowered to make such decisions when her blatant incompetence has been plastered all over the news for the past few weeks for all and sundry to see.

Reform has to be implemented as quickly as possible. Sinn Féin have already called for the Tánaiste to resign – she has stood over the indecent golden handshake to disgraced former Director General Rody Molloy and has shown herself incapable of addressing the unemployment crisis and getting FÁS doing the job it is funded to do.

A new board needs to start addressing the dire unemployment crisis and putting in place training and up-skilling programs to meet the needs of unemployed workers. The fact that this mess has been dragging on for the last 18 months is hugely damaging – time is being lost during which training and up-skilling to assist in the economic recovery could have been put in place.

Rody Molloy should have been sacked, fired, booted out and shamed for his wholly disgraceful behaviour in FÁS. But he wasn’t. He was allowed to resign and save face after having squandered millions of euros of taxpayers’ money.

What we have seen is double standards in Government; Government officials across the board looking after their own, making sure they get a little extra something while workers across the state are feeling this recession harder than anyone else.

Where was the government intervention and support when, for example, the Thomas Cook workers had to protest and haul themselves up in Thomas Cook headquarters, when they were brought before the High Court for seeking a decent remuneration for themselves? I’ll tell you where it was – it was in seedy backroom negotiations with Rody Molloy, fluffing up his nest egg and giving him a pat on the back.

This scandal with FÁS expenditure is another example of a branch of government having absolutely no accountability. We should not have to wait for resignations, there should be no hesitation in sacking these people on the spot, do not pass go and do not collect your executive pension. There needs to be action taken now we need to put in place frameworks that monitor and enforce accountability procedures. These people are not above the law and should not remain in privileged positions if they so readily abuse their power. There is palpable anger among the ordinary citizens of this country as they struggle to hold on to their jobs, as their incomes are slashed, as burgeoning taxes further reduce their tax home pay.

And how does the government respond? NAMA and extravagant pensions for directors. This government is totally out of touch with the people. They have demonstrated time and time again their incompetence. They have neither the brains nor the brawn to get Ireland back to work and out of recession. They have no mandate.

Mary Coughlan has had ostrich syndrome over the past few months as the expenditure wastage was revealed, Mary Harney herself was embroiled in the whole scandalous affair during her reign as Tánaiste and senior civil servants were also enjoying the fiesta at FÁS. Burgeoning unemployment, cuts to social welfare and excessive taxes do not affect those in the Government’s golden circle apparently. No more.

How did this come about? Who is to blame? Where does the buck stop?

How was this allowed to happen? The answer is simply that the Fianna Fáil government has bred this culture of corruption, cronyism and indeed golden handshakes. Indeed NAMA is a case in point: the only beneficiaries of this government intervention will be the bankers and developers. There is no NAMA for ordinary people.

The culture of cronyism and corruption, not only within FÁS, but also within the Government as Deputies Coughlan, Harney and Martin have all been embroiled in this scandal, meant that controls that were in place were simply by-passed, public money was squandered shamelessly, and senior management oversight was null.

The key issues that have to be addressed are the weaknesses in the system that allowed such wastage and disregard for taxpayers money to occur and go uncovered, and how these indignities were dealt with.

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment is held responsible to the Dáil in respect of overall expenditure and in respect of employment and labour force policy. So, how well has she done this far? The fact that her home county has the 5th highest rate of unemployment speaks volumes. Even the Lisbon results in her home constituency reflect her job performance and citizen satisfaction. The underlying truth is that the buck stops with Mary Coughlan.

The Government has been breeding this culture of corruption and looking after their friends. Indeed our Tánaiste went to great lengths to ensure Mr Molloy’s nest egg was suitably fluffed up after his resignation. Failing to take any legal advice, she went ahead and gave him an extremely generous retirement package, one she does not afford to ordinary worker at any time.

The integrity of FÁS has been seriously undermined, not only exposing the organisation to widespread criticism but also resulting in a loss of funds that would have been better spent facilitating training programmes. A culture of malpractice exists within the hierarchies of FÁS. We should not be replacing one set of pawns with another without gutting and reforming the whole system first. How can we, here in this chamber, and more importantly how can the taxpayers, trust that the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment will prevent this happening again when she herself had ostrich syndrome during the course of this whole affair. Keeping your head in the sand when taxpayers money is wasted as record numbers of people sign onto the Live Register does not engrain much confidence.

In order to put FÁS on track, to put the emphasis back on its work as the state training agency, it must regain credibility. It must have organs for stringent accountability and oversight. The cosy relationship between the Department, the Minister and the Agency it was supposed to be supervising has to be eliminated.

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