Vino Viral | 

TikTok video featuring Mick Wallace causes a stir as MEP claims he owns wine bars

Mick Wallace


MEP Mick Wallace said he has three wine bars in Dublin, in a video posted online, but they do not appear in his official European register of interests.

In a TikTok uploaded by right-wing Italian MEP Alessandro Panza, Mr Wallace hinted that he has an active role in managing the business.

Mr Wallace did own a number of wine bars before his bankruptcy in 2016. But he ceased to include them in his Dáil register of interests at around that time.

Accounts filed with the Companies Registration Office show Mr Wallace is neither a shareholder nor a director in the holding company behind ​his original wine business – Wallace Calcio.

The video comments are likely to sow confusion about his financial interests.

“I have three wine bars in Dublin and I sell only Italian wine and I import all the produce from Italy,” Mr Wallace said in a TikTok video that appears to have been posted around February 1.

The video was filmed at an event in the European Parliament in Brussels, where Mr Panza appeared to be rallying opposition to Ireland’s plan to place cancer warnings on ­alcohol labels.

Mr Wallace does not mention the name of any bar.

In the video, Mr Panza introduces Mr Wallace as a producer of wine in Italy’s Piedmont region.

Mr Wallace’s declaration of interests – which dates from 2019, the year he was elected an MEP – does not mention interests in Italy or in Ireland.

He is on record in 2012 as saying that he sold a vineyard in Italy to his brother to settle business debts.

Repeated attempts to contact Mr Wallace to clarify his statements have failed.

Mr Wallace (67) is the former developer behind the creation of Dublin’s Italian quarter, a collection of bars and cafes on the north banks of the Liffey – a short walk from Temple Bar – which was built in the early 2000s.

The last decade has marked a turnaround in fortunes for the former businessman, whose family has run shops in Wellingtonbridge, 15 minutes from Wexford town, since the 1940s.

He entered the Dáil in 2011 as an Independent TD, with a stake in three companies: 99pc of his own building firm, M&J Wallace; 99pc of the Wexford Youths, a football club he set up; and a 40pc share in Wallace Calcio, the holding company behind (at that time) five wine bars and a cafe.

He was also a director of eight firms, including three property management companies and two clothing businesses, and listed two properties in Wexford.

By December 2016, the ­distinctive politician – ­recognisable by a shock of curly white hair and pink T-shirts – was adjudicated bankrupt with debts of more than €30m, according to press reports.

His Dáil declaration for that year lists ownership of just one firm: M&J Wallace, the building company that was liquidated to help pay off his debts.

Since then, the wine bar holding company – which Wallace previously owned – has been owned by Paris-based Tina Harpur (51pc) and Dublin-based Patricia Barry (32pc), according to official company filings. Three Italian nationals own minority stakes of 17pc between them.

After the bankruptcy, his son Fionn – who has been working as an assistant to fellow Independent MEP Clare Daly since 2019 – was named a director of Wallace Calcio, a position he held until 2018. His eldest son Sasha was also a director of the company for several years.

The three Italian minority shareholders in the company took over as directors in 2018.

Mr Wallace is an avowed Italophile and once owned property in Turin as well as the vineyard in Piedmont.

As an MEP, he now makes over €100,000 a year, before tax, with allowances having the potential to almost double that amount, depending on how much time is spent in Brussels or Strasbourg.

His bankruptcy was discharged. In early 2019, before taking up his seat in the European Parliament, he said he still had “another nine months to go” in the bankruptcy process, telling RTÉ’s Your Politics podcast that he “didn’t go to Brussels for the money”.

The recent TikTok clip shows Mr Wallace at the Brussels event, clasping hands with right-wing Italian MEP Mr Panza, who called him “a member of our family”.

Mr Wallace is a member of the European Parliament’s Left group, a mix of independents, communists, regional and other left-leaning parties, the opposite end of the political spectrum from Mr Panza, whose group is staunchly nationalist and anti-immigration.

The two were united in their opposition to an Irish plan to put cancer warning labels on alcohol bottles from later this year.

Thirteen EU countries have raised concerns about the plan, but Italian winemakers and politicians have been the most outspoken, with deputy prime minister (and former European Parliament president) Antonio Tajani calling it “absurd”.

“I don’t agree with putting the label on the wine saying that wine causes you cancer,” Mr Wallace said in the video.

Today's Headlines

More Irish News

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos