Coveney breached marine law by keeping state position open for convict friend Paul Hyde

Simon Coveney left a state board role he was responsible for open beyond the legal timeframe, rejecting at least two candidates, before finally appointing his close friend Paul Hyde, who would later become a convicted criminal.

Then agriculture minister Coveney failed to appoint a candidate to the Marine Institute board in the legally mandated 60 days – but gave the €770-a-meeting role to Hyde within a week of the ex-An Bord Pleanála deputy chairperson’s expression of interest.

It was the first state role for Hyde, who was recently sentenced to two months’ imprisonment for planning law breaches.

Former tánaiste Coveney had accepted a €2,500 donation from Hyde’s father a few years before approving the state board appointment.

Hyde appointed within a week of his application

In May 2011 newly appointed agriculture minister Simon Coveney’s department published a list of state board vacancies on its website. The vacancies included a role on the board of the Marine Institute. The department invited expressions of interest.

The role had to be filled within a certain timeframe.

According to the Marine Institute Act 1991, “A vacancy of the Institute shall be filled within sixty days.”

It took Coveney more than a year to find a suitable candidate.

In late March and early May 2012, two people expressed their interest in the role, according to freedom of information records released by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to The Ditch.

On 16 May, 2012, Paul Hyde, a close personal friend of Coveney’s, sent an email to the department asking it to consider appointing him to the board of the Marine Institute.

Hyde was an architect, though did have maritime experience, having co-owned a yacht with Coveney.

Just four days later, on 21 May, 2012, a Department of Agriculture official emailed Coveney’s private secretary with details of Hyde’s application, as well as the two earlier expressions of interest.

Coveney appointed Hyde within a week to the €7,695 a year position, according to an internal Department of Agriculture email dated 24 May, 2012.

“I am confident that you have much to contribute to its research programme which supports the sustainable development of the marine sector and the protection of the marine environment," wrote Coveney in a letter dated 1 June, 2012 confirming Hyde’s appointment for a five-year term.

Hyde replied five days later.

“I wish to personally assure you of my personal and professional desire to make a positive contribution to its research programme in support of the sustainable development of the marine sector and the protection of the marine environment of this country and its territorial waters,” wrote Hyde.

Two years later, in May 2014, Fine Gael environment minister Phil Hogan appointed Hyde to the board of An Bord Pleanála (ABP) on an annual salary of more than €120,000 despite the fact that he had been nominated to the position by a defunct organisation.

In summer 2022, following a series of articles published by The Ditch that eventually led to his criminal conviction, Hyde resigned as deputy chairperson of ABP.

Hyde was convicted in June this year of submitting false declarations of interest to ABP over a seven-year period and was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment. The Cork man immediately appealed the severity of his sentence.

Coveney declined to comment.

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors