stretching credibility | 

Fianna Fáil back Paschal Donohoe over failure to declare election donations...for now

Further revelations about the Pubic Expenditure minister would erode trust

Paschal Donohoe

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe is in the eye of a storm that dates back to 2016. Photo: Damien Storan/PA© PA

Croatian Minister of Finance Marko Primorac and President of the Eurogroup Paschal Donohoe look at the Croatian Euro coins as they attend the Eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium, January 16, 2023. REUTERS/Yves Herman© REUTERS

Philip RyanSunday World

Fianna Fáil will back Paschal Donohoe over his failure to declare election donations, as long as there are no further revelations about the Public Expenditure minister.

Mr Donohoe has been engulfed in controversy since it emerged he failed to declare services which were paid for by his friend and engineering firm chief executive, Michael Stone.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin weighed in behind the minister, saying he had given a thorough explanation for not declaring that Mr Stone paid for posters to be erected and taken down during the 2016 general election campaign.

However, there are concerns within Fianna Fáil over the revelations which have resulted in Mr Donohoe recusing himself from any work related to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) while the watchdog investigates him.

It comes as it can be revealed Fianna Fáil senator Mary Fitzpatrick declared she spent €5,000 having posters erected and taken down during the 2016 election. Mr Donohoe said Mr Stone paid €1,100 for six people to work across four nights to put up and take down posters.

When asked about the difference in cost, the minister’s spokesperson said the “vast majority” of Mr Donohoe’s “postering was done free of charge by volunteers”.

She said volunteers were also used to hang his posters for the 2020 general election.

It also emerged Mr Stone was appointed to the powerful Land Development Agency (LDA), three years after he paid for Mr Donohoe’s posters to be put up.

Unlike some members of the board, Mr Stone was directly appointed to the agency by then Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, who is a former Fine Gael colleague of Mr Donohoe.

Other members of the LDA board are appointed through the Public Appointment Services system, but the Housing Minister can appoint four.

Board members are paid fees of €15,759 plus expenses but Mr Stone has waived his fee and not claimed expenses. Mr Donohoe’s spokesperson said he played no role in Mr Stone’s appointment to the LDA.

Meanwhile, despite the Tánaiste giving his full support to Mr Donohoe, some of his party colleagues are less than convinced.

“Last week, Paschal wanted to oversee the updating of Sipo powers following the resignation of a colleague after disclosure failure, and now he can’t do this because of his disclosure failures,” one senior Fianna Fáil TD said.

Another Fianna Fáil TD said the Dublin Central TD would be “goosed if it gets worse”.

“Can’t say he’s safe until after a Dáil debate on the issue,” said another.

Another Fianna Fáil TD said: “When you’re explaining, you’re losing. Isn’t that it? Paschal is well-liked. Nobody wants to see him go. One oversight is embarrassing for him. If there was another, it would be tough and hard to hang on.”

Another warned about a drip feed of information over the coming days when the minister is out of the country.

“I think there will be a Dáil debate, maybe a motion against him, or a vote. He will have Fianna Fáil support, as long as it stays a storm in a teacup,” the source said.

“Fine Gael didn’t do a lot to shore things up when Fianna Fáilers were in trouble, so they can’t really depend on us. If he loses the confidence of the other two leaders in the Coalition, that’s when he would have to go,” they added.

Sinn Féin TD Mairéad Farrell, who marks Mr Donohoe on Public Expenditure and Reform, said his attempt to explain “doesn’t wash”.

She added: “The attempt by Paschal Donohoe to suggest that services provided to his campaign by his friend’s company do not constitute a political donation to him stretches all credibility.”


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