Green Party leader Eamon Ryan denies he is guilty of cronyism over climate appointments
15th November 2021
© Reuters Eamon Ryan
GREEN Party leader Eamon Ryan has denied he is guilty of cronyism in appointing his former adviser and a former party activist to the National Climate Change Advisory Council.
Mr Ryan, just back from COP26 in Glasgow, said he had been working on green issues for years and if he had to restrict his appointments to be people he didn’t know or have worked with, “I’d have a very narrow choice.”
He came under sustained attack from Sinn Féin last week over the appointment of his former adviser, Morgan D Bazilian, and a former Green Party candidate, Dr Cara Augustenborg, to the council. The roles come with an annual €10,000 stipend.
Mr Ryan said he had been looking for someone “with real expertise“ for the council, insisting the appointment process was “exactly what was set out in the legislation.”
The Green Party leader was critical of the appointment of Katherine Zappone as a Special Envoy on freedom of expression without an open, competitive and transparent process.
There was no competition to his appointments to the council, but they had been agreed by the Cabinet, he said. “It involves a team of people that I believe absolutely has the necessary skills.”
He said the appointments had been dealt with similarly to previous climate advisory council nominations, “so I absolutely stand over that.
“The key thing for me was to get the right people with the right mix of skills. I believe we have that on our advisory council, and their focus and my focus is now on the need to start delivering emissions reductions and delivering climate action.”
In response to Sinn Féin’s focus accusations of cronyism, he said on This Week on RTÉ Radio 1 that he would like to work with that party on a united political front on climate change.
“I think it’s my job to sit down with Sinn Féin and I would like to request them to work with the climate advisory council.
Pearse Doherty of Sinn Féin said in the Dáil on Thursday however that Minister Ryan has repeated the Zappone manoeuvre.
The two members appointed were eminently qualified, but that “doesn’t preclude or take away from the fact that Government employment should be transparent,” he said.
He has called for Minister Ryan to come before the Dáil to explain “how he came about this appointment process.”
Taking questions, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney replied: “I’m sure there’ll be an opportunity to ask Minister Ryan his rationale in the context of these appointments.
“My understanding is that both of these individuals are eminently qualified for the job that they’re being asked to do.
“And I’m sure Minister Ryan will give full details in terms of the basis of that decision and how it came about.”
Dr. Cara Augustenborg was an environmental scientist and a Senior Fellow in environmental policy at University College Dublin, and has canvassed for the Green Party.
Dr Bazilian is a Professor of Public Policy holding two Master’s degrees and a PhD in energy systems. He was formerly an adviser to Eamon Ryan in Government.
Sinn Féin repeatedly focussed on the appointments in the Dáil last week – and is expected to see further answers from Mr Ryan on the issue.