Community development

Print FriendlyPrint This Article

MFG

Under the new system of topical debates, Eamon O Cuiv (FF, Galway W) raised the closure of the MFG (Meitheal Forbatha na Gaeltachta) partnership (Dail Eireann, Debates, 14th September 2011, 26-8).  Responding for the government, the Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Fergus O’Dowd confirmed that MFG had closed on grounds of insolvency.  The partnership had closed on 7th September, ceased trading and terminated its staff contracts.  A meeting had been held on 9th September, involving its former board, the Department of the Environment Community and Local Government, Pobal and consultants who had worked with MFG during its final phase, Mazars, to ensure its statutory obligations were met.  Later, the minister told Brendan Griffin (FG, Kerry S) that his department was working with Pobal to examine mechanisms to support the continuation of services previously supplied (Dail Eireann, Debates, 21st September 2011, 173-4).

 The situation was raised in the Seanad by Trevor O Clochartaigh (SF, agricultural) (Seanad Eireann, 20th September 2011, 147-8).  He told the Seanad that there had been considerable buck-passing between MFG, Pobal and the department, which was completely unacceptable, granted that 130 jobs were in the balance.  He had been raising serious governance issues about this company for some time.  Three years ago, several parties had written to directors of the company and three of its programmes were audited a year and a half ago by Pobal, but the report was not published despite requests that it should be.  He asked: why had Pobal and the department not stepped in sooner?

 Responding for the government, the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Willie Penrose, told him that  his department had no role in the internal operations of a local development or partnership company.  He confirmed that Pobal had begun an audit of MFG in January 2010 which was sent to MFG in June 2010.  Mazars had been appointed by Pobal on 30 June 2011 to resolve the audit issues and presented its findings to Pobal in August 2011 and MFG on 7th September 2011.  Final recommendations were to go to Pobal by 30th September but MFG closed on the 7th September.  At a Pobal-department-MFG meeting on 9th September, MFG agreed to take legal advice  on how it could fulfill its statutory duties and the department and Pobal were awaiting an update on this.  MFG was a private company and the department cannot interfere and direct its business.  In the meantime, the department and Pobal are examining how the services which it previously supplied can be continued.  Trevor O Clochartaigh, though, argued that granted it operated state programmes directed by his department, did this not give him such a right and could it have stepped in sooner?  Granted the June 2010 report, could the department have acted sooner, salvaged the company and saved the jobs?