Monday October 13 2008
A JUNIOR minister who recently called for job cuts among the "featherless but still plump State hens" in the civil service is employing his own son at taxpayers' expense.
Trade Minister John McGuinness appointed his son Andrew as his personal secretary last year, on a salary of â‚¬43,242.
Last night he defended his decision on the grounds that his son was the best person for the job.
"It's very simple -- in that position you need a strong degree of trust and he is one that is certainly most trusted. I have no difficulty whatsoever in standing over him," he said.
Neither Fine Gael nor Labour were willing to comment on the case -- due to the fact that many of their TDs and senators also employ family members in their offices.
Mr McGuinness said his son Andrew was familiar with dealing with the media and compiling press releases due to his previous position as a journalist with the 'Kilkenny Voice', he said.
"I see him as being well qualified and he works on the basis of the job being 24/7 and being totally committed to the job," he said. His son works between Mr McGuinness' ministerial office in Dublin and his constituency office in Kilkenny. He is also entitled to a town councillor's salary, after being elected as a member of Kilkenny Town Council in 2004. According to documents seen by the Irish Independent, Mr McGuinness notified the clerk of the Dail of his decision to appoint his son as required under the Ethics in Public Office Act.
Mr McGuinness pointed out that he had not employed his son from 1997-2007 and had only hired him when he had built up his experience -- which included a diploma in media studies.
"During that period of time, he had sufficient qualifications for me to deem him appropriate for the job."
Like other secretaries employed by TDs and senators, Mr McGuinness' son is not classified as a member of the civil service and stands to lose his job if his father is not re-elected.
Mr McGuinness was speaking from Turkey, where he yesterday officially opened a new shopping centre built by the Quinn Group in the town of Bahcesehir. As part of the trade mission he also helped set up meetings between Irish telecommunications companies and Turkcell, the country's leading mobile phone operator.
Mr McGuinness was involved in a war of words last month with the Labour party, who had accused him of being a "pretty plump State gander" -- a reference to the 10 staff employed at his private and constituency offices. Mr McGuinness hit back by coming up with records to show Labour leader Eamon Gilmore had more staff in his junior ministerial office during the 1995-1997 "Rainbow" government.
Earlier this year, it emerged that one in five TDs and senators is employing a relative at taxpayers' expense. Some 31 TDs and 11 senators currently employ family relatives, including wives, husbands, sons and daughters, out of a total of 226 politicians in the Dail and Seanad.
The posts are not publicly advertised and carry salaries of up to â‚¬45,000.
- Michael Brennan Political Correspondent