The ESB Board of Directors

29 June, 2009

As the ESB struggles to contain its costs in the face of economic depression and greater competition, let’s stop to look at the composition of its Board of Directors (link).   

There are 4 worker directors, which in itself is an impediment to efficiency (but that’s another day’s work).   On top of that handicap, we must question whether some of the other board members are sufficiently qualified for the job of acting as a director of one of our largest and most important State enterprises,   whose actions have a direct bearing on the competitiveness of Irish industry.  That’s not to say that they are not fine people, and certainly they have excelled in other fields, but can we continue the pretence of running a modern economy if directors of major semi-state enterprises are selected by the Government partly or mainly on grounds of politics and geography? 

Here’s what the ESB website tells us about a selection of the non-executive directors.

Mr Seamus Mallon: Seamus Mallon was appointed to the Board in February 2006. He was elected to Armagh District Council in 1973, to the then Northern Ireland Assembly (1973-4) and to the Northern Ireland Convention (1975-76). He was a member of Seanad Eireann in 1981. From 1986 to 2005 he was MP for Newry and Armagh at Westminster. He was Debuty Leader of the SDLP and, subsequent to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in April 1998, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland…..

Ms. Georgina Kenny: Georgina Kenny was appointed to the Board in April 2000. A Solicitor, Ms. Kenny is Managing Director of Shannon Dry Cleaners. She has been a member of the Board of Athlone Community Task Force since 1994….

Mr Garry Keegan: Mr Keegan, who was appointed to the ESB Board in June 2007, is a Director of Acumen, a company specialising in the provision of public consultation services for urban design and infrastructural projects…..

Great people, one and all, but not obvious candidates for membership of the ESB’s board, IMHO. 

Some additional reading on the politicization of our State boards:-  

O’Rourke appointed eight from constituency
Sunday, March 03, 2002     By Niamh Connolly
The Minister for Public Enterprise, Mary O’Rourke, has appointed eight people from her Westmeath constituency to the boards of key commercial state enterprises.   The eight, who were appointed to semi-state bodies including Aer Lingus, the ESB, An Post, Bord Gáis and Bord na Móna, either come from or currently live in the minister’s home town of Athlone.   The new non-executive directors, who include teachers, farmers and business people, receive between €10,157 and €12,697 a year for their five-year terms, excluding expenses……… O’Rourke has appointed 63 non-executive directors to state boards since she took office in June 1997. This includes six non-executive appointments to the board of EirGrid last March and five non-executive appointments to the new Railway Procurement Agency, which was established in January.    Cabinet ministers can make appointments to state boards even after the Dáil has been dissolved and until the general election. Fine Gael has criticised the system of political appointees and is urging that a Dáil joint committee scrutinise the experience and qualifications of all new political appointees…..

In the Dáil on 30th April 2008, Deputy Leo Varadkar “asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the date on which each member of the board of the ESB was first appointed; when they were subsequently reappointed if applicable; the members of the board appointed by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”

The response is here.  The Minister gave the facts but no substantive statement on the matter.  

And some people wonder why the country is in a mess?


One Response to “The ESB Board of Directors”

  1. […] previously wrote a post about the strange composition of the board of the ESB.  And I referred therein to an excellent article in the Sunday Business Post […]

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