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Eamon Ryan insists appointments to climate council followed ‘letter of the law'

Sinn Fein has accused the Minister for the Environment of “cronyism” for appointing his former special adviser and an ex-Green Party candidate to the 10,000 euro-a-year role, without an open competition. Picture from Getty Images

Eamon Ryan has defended the appointment of two of his associates to the Climate Change Advisory Council, saying they followed “the letter of the law”.

Sinn Fein has accused the Minister for the Environment of “cronyism” for appointing his former special adviser and an ex-Green Party candidate to the 10,000 euro-a-year role, without an open competition.

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said the Green Party leader had failed to implement a recommendation by the Oireachtas Climate Committee that there be an open, transparent and competitive process for the appointments.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions today, Mr Doherty accused Mr Ryan of stroke politics, and said it was vital the council be independent of government.

He said: “Once you have had the opportunity to dole out jobs for your friends, you have been shown just as capable as Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are at doling out those jobs.

“I know that the two members appointed are eminently qualified. Their qualifications aren’t in question and that is not the issue.

“And it doesn’t take away from the fact that these two individuals, one was a former special adviser to yourself, and the other was a Green Party election candidate.

“Now minister, these are positions that are paid from the public purse.

“Ten thousand euro per year, travel and subsistence claims on top of that.

“They’re paid for by the taxpayer and the taxpayer deserves no less than a transparent and an open and an accountable process. But you let them down in relation to that.”

He added: “The Climate Change Advisory Council has a very important role to play, and that is in terms of guiding the response to the climate crisis and it is vital that it is independent of Government.

“The advice that government receives is not predetermined or reflective of ideological persuasions, that is crucial in terms of this council.

“Independent advice is no use if you’re simply getting the advice that you want to hear on critical issues such as carbon tax, which are hitting hard on ordinary families what you fail to provide alternatives.”

Minister Ryan responded that the council had been appointed in the same manner as the previous one, and that all proper procedures were followed.

He said they had particular skills that are crucially important to the council.

Mr Ryan told the Dail: “It was appointed going through all the proper government procedures – going to Cabinet, giving advance notice, discussing with colleagues – both within the department and within Government.

“And this council, in my mind, has that correct mix of skills which not everyone has, they’re very specific skills.

“The individuals you mentioned have been recognised in being appointed by previous governments to other similar bodies, the EPA and other bodies.

“In the case of one of the individuals, unique experience in world energy policy in a whole variety of different institutions, that brings real expertise to the council that I don’t believe would have been available elsewhere.”

He added: “If I was to exclude people on the basis of having worked with me or knowing me in the past, that, as I said, I think wouldn’t serve the Irish people well.

“The individual question, the ones you mentioned, have absolutely the necessary skills.

“So yes, I stand over the process. I believe it was the correct one and was followed to the letter of the law.”

Mr Ryan accused Sinn Féin of trying to turn climate change into a divisive issue.

“If Sinn Féin wants to turn climate into a divisive issue, where you’re accusing others of cronyism and so on, I don’t think that serves the people in this leap we need to make, this incredible change we need to make,” he said.

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