[Sinn Fein]

24 May 2000

O'Flaherty appointment by Dublin Government to European Investment Bank ``cronyism pure and simple''

Speech by Sinn Fein TD Caoimghín O Caoláin, voting to censure the Government on the nomination of former Supreme Court Judge Hugh O'Flaherty as vice-president of the European Investment Bank.


I support the Opposition motion.

The air in the McEvaddy villa in the South of France where Ministers McCreevy and Harney have their holidays must be rare indeed. It has produced a mood of harmony and peace between these two Ministers and between them both and the Taoiseach which allows them to weather débâcles such as this without a ripple in their relationship.

I have read Minister McCreevy's speech in this chamber last night and I must say it was an extraordinary performance. The Minister tried to present himself as the figure of Blind Justice wisely selecting the most eminently qualified candidate for the post of EIB vice-president without fear or favour. However the Minister could not disguise the favouritism which led to this appointment. It was cronyism pure and simple. The Minister claimed that when Justice O'Flaherty realised that his seeking to remain in office as a judge was threatening to compromise the integrity of the Judiciary, he did the honourable thing and resigned. But we all know that he resigned after the government notified him that if he did not do so he would be impeached.

The Minister asked: ``Are we entitled to condemn such a man for the rest of his life for making a mistake for which he paid a huge price?'' The answer is no, but that is not the question. The question is should a man who was found to have acted wrongly in the Sheedy case and whom the government threatened with impeachment, be elevated to one of the most lucrative jobs in the EU?

The appointment of Hugh O'Flaherty is entirely inappropriate given the failure of the Judge to account for his role in the Sheedy affair before the Oireachtas and given the Chief Justice's strong criticism of his role in that affair. I opposed the legislation in the Dáil last year which awarded a very large pension to Judge O'Flaherty. I share the public anger at this appointment. The issue as far as I am concerned and, I believe, as far as the public is concerned is not the personality of a judge but the credibility of a government.

We should all be conscious that at the root of this affair is the tragic death of a young woman at the hands of a drunk driver. The case put a question mark over the impartiality of the justice system. It was seen to operate in favour of those with privilege and those with the right connections. The injustice was compounded by the three very special and generous pension arrangements provided for in legislation by this government. Could workers in any but the most elite professions expect such privileged treatment? Of course not. The injustice has been further compounded now by this appointment.

I call on the Minister for Finance and the government to withdraw this nomination.

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