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Dormant accounts: ‘a new slush fund for government’

The Dormant Accounts (amendment) Bill, 2011, already approved by the Seanad, went to the Dail (Dail Eireann, Debates, 15th November 2011, 485-497).  The Bill was welcomed by Niall Collins (FF, Limerick), who supported the transfer of powers from the board to the minister.  For too long his own party had diverted decision-making from ministers to third-party quangos.  The minister was right to accept the recommendation of the McCarthy report and the more of that, the better.

 

Brian Stanley (SF, Laois Offaly) attacked the way in which the work of the voluntary and community sector had come under sustained attack, especially by the former government which closed down community development projects.  For years, community projects had been the victims of an unfair proportion of spending cuts, but little or nothing had changed with the new government.  He criticized the transfer of powers to the ministers, for people simply did not trust politicians with decisions.  Moving decision-making powers into the minister’s office would be received with healthy and justified cynicism.  The original board had been independent of government, but it would now become a slush fund for the government.  The guidelines required that the minister must have regard for the priorities of government, the very policies that contributed to marginalization.  We must ensure that the fund was ring-fenced and not used to supplement government funding, keeping oversight and evaluation independent of government.  Likewise, money collected by the Criminal Assets Bureau, €13m over 2005-9, should be channelled back into the communities from which it was robbed by drug dealers and criminal gangs.

 

As for the cost savings from closing the board, the McCarthy report had estimated €1.7m, a grossly inflated figure plucked from the air, but the briefing from the chief whip’s office now gave only €120,000.