HOPES ARE growing that Taoiseach Enda Kenny will implement the Ombudsman’s report into the Byrne family and the Lost At Sea scheme.
The Byrne family spokesperson on the Lost at Sea scheme Danny Byrne has revealed that both Mr Kenny and the Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore had contacted the Ombudsman in relation to her report.
Mr Byrne, who lost his father and brother, along with three crew members when their boat sank in 1981, made the comments following his decision to contest the Seanad election.
He says he hopes he will have the support of the Fine Gael party.
Sixteen months ago the Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, launched a scathing attack on the then Government’s refusal to fully debate her report on the Lost at Sea Scheme.
Her report recommended payment of €250,000 to the Byrne family who she said were wrongly excluded from the Lost at Sea Scheme.
Skipper Francis Byrne and his 16-year-old son James died, along with three others, when their boat the Skifjord sank off Burtonport on October 31, 1981.
The family applied to the Scheme, but the deadline had passed and their application was rejected as ineligible.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found that the scheme should have been more widely advertised. She said that, although the Scheme itself had not paid out compensation as such, the family should receive a payment of €250,000 as redress for having been wrongly excluded.
In December 2009, after her recommendations were rejected by the Minister for State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Ms O’Reilly sent her report to the Dail and Seanad for consideration, asking them to “take whatever action they deemed appropriate”.
The issue was discussed in the Dail and Seanad last February but Ms O’Reilly says that on both occasions the discussions consisted of “a series of statements rather than any detailed engagement with the substance of the investigation” and no further action was recommended.
A month later members of Fine Gael and Labour – then in opposition – tried to have the report referred to Oireachtas committees, but this was again rejected. On all occasions, members voted along party lines.
Ms O’Reilly said at the time that using the party whip to prevent discussion of her recommendations is a symptom of the “poor governance in a number of our key private and public institutions [that] lies at the heart of the downturn”.
The Lost at Sea case, she argued tracks “a line that runs from maladministration in a Government Department right through to poor Governance at the very highest level of this State.
“The economic and political crises that face this country will never be dealt with unless the culture and values of the political and administrative classes undergo profound change. An investigation by an Ombudsman may seem small scale in comparison to the huge financial challenges around us, yet it is a microcosm nonetheless of the faultlines within our system.”
She also said she hoped the “the Oireachtas will find a mechanism to allow the matter [the Lost at Sea Report] be dealt with in a calm and reasonable fashion.”