Belfast Telegraph

Watchdog slams the political class

A respected state watchdog has launched a withering attack on the political class, claiming they have abandoned the republican ideals of the Constitution.

Angered over the Government's refusal to sanction compensation for a family whose father and son died at sea, Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly said Dail powers have been sidelined in favour of a rubber-stamping parliament.

"Unfortunately, the model of government set out in the Irish Constitution has become more of a fiction than a reality," she said.

"In practice the Dail, and to a slightly lesser extent the Seanad, is controlled very firmly by the Government parties through the operation of the whip system. For all practical purposes, and I very much regret having to say this so bluntly, parliament in Ireland has been sidelined and is no longer in a position to hold the executive to account.

"With the exception of the election of a Taoiseach, almost all decisions of importance are taken by the executive and are rubber-stamped by parliament."

Ms O'Reilly, Ombudsman and Information Commissioner, launched the fierce attack as she addressed senior public and civil servants at a conference in Dublin.

She had ordered 245,570 euro compensation be paid to the family of Francis Byrne after he died along with his 16-year-old son Jimmy and three other crew when the family's fishing boat the Skifjord sank in a storm off Donegal in 1981.

The family applied for financial aid under the Government's controversial Lost at Sea scheme to assist fishermen who lost fishing boats between 1980 and 1989. It was brought in by Fianna Fail TD Frank Fahey but 75% of the 2 million euro fund went to two of his Galway constituents.

The Byrnes' application was rejected by the Department of Agriculture and it is believed senior civil servants were concerned about the level of claims the scheme would lead to.

The Ombudsman sided with the family and laid her report before the Oireachtas. It is only the second time in the 26-year history of the office a ruling has been ignored by the Government.

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