Inland Fisheries Ireland is subject to a significant number of proprietary disclosures, says Eamon Ryan – The Irish Times

According to Environment Secretary Eamon Ryan, nearly 10 proprietary disclosures have been made alleging alleged wrongdoing within Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

Mr Ryan told the Oireachtas Environment Committee that he does not have the authority to publicly reveal how many disclosures have been made in the Fisheries Protection Agency, which has been torn by internal disputes over the past year.

When asked by Fine Gael TD after Mayo Alan Dillon whether the figures were in double digits, Mr Ryan said no but added that the total was in the “high single digits”.

The ongoing problems in the IFI led to the resignation of five board members, including two chairmen, during 2022 and early 2023 as the relationship between the board and management broke down and there were also differences between the board members.

The resignations resulted in the remaining three non-executive directors not having a quorum and being unable to make a number of important decisions.

In February, Mr. Ryan took the rare step of firing the three remaining members of the IFI Board on February 14 through no fault of their own.

He appointed two former county managers, Tom Barry and Seamus Neely, to serve on the board. He has also asked them to prioritize considering the protected disclosures as well as a governance review to be completed within six months.

Questions from Mr Dillon and Galway Senator Sean Kyne to the Minister centered on why he had focused his actions solely on the Board and not on issues and issues across the organization itself.

Last year, Mr. Ryan asked an attorney, Conleth Bradley, to conduct a review of the board and its governance and determine whether any members needed to be removed. Mr Bradley’s report concluded that no members needed to be removed and recommended changes in leadership.

The Minister said the changes had not been implemented by the Board but Mr Kyne countered that he did not have time to do so as the Board only received the report at the end of September, over two months after it was finalised.

Mr Ryan said he had held talks on the matter with former Chair Frances Lucy, who resigned over Christmas. “I came to the conclusion that the board wasn’t working,” he said.

Rather than reshuffle the board, he said he made the decision to remove the remaining members.

Mr Kyne claimed the minister had fired board members. Committee chair Brian Leddin said that was incorrect and they had been removed. Mr Kyne replied that the chairman was being pedantic, adding that the board members’ reputations had been challenged.

Senator Timmy Dooley of Fianna Fáil said it was almost unprecedented for a board to be removed in this way and asked whether the minister or official had exit talks with the three members who were removed through no fault of their own. Mr Ryan said there had been no discussions but added that his officials told him that any of the three members could reapply for a position on the board.

Mr Ryan suggested the internal disputes had become political and he would not engage.

“Could it have been restored with the appointment of new members to the board? I came to a clear decision that we would have persistence [pattern] Charge and countercharge,” he said.

Mr Ryan said he met Mr Barry and Mr Neely on Monday.

“They told me that they had an impression of a very professional, functioning organization,” he said. He said they informed him that it had not been prevented from performing his duties and closing his accounts. He said both appointees told him that morale in the body was strong despite his difficulties. Inland Fisheries Ireland is subject to a significant number of proprietary disclosures, says Eamon Ryan – The Irish Times

Dais Johnston

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