What questions does Paschal Donohoe have to answer on his 2016 election expenses?

Minister likely to make statement to Dáil on why he did not declare postering expenses

What is the row about?

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe admitted at the weekend that he failed to disclose some expenses for his 2016 general election campaign to the Standards in Public Office (Sipo) as he was required to do. It came after a complaint was lodged to the ethics watchdog about his election expenses statement.

What expenses and how much?

A supporter of his, Michael Stone, organised to put up, and remove, posters for Donohoe in his Dublin Central constituency. Stone runs a successful international engineering firm. A company van was used. Six workers also erected, and removed, posters around the constituency over four evenings. The cost of using the van was attributed as being €140. The workers were paid a total of €1,100, but as some of the work happened after the election, the relevant sum to disclose was €917.

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Others have made mistakes and corrected them. Why is this different?

Donohoe was made aware of the situation before the complaint was made. In 2017 he was made aware that the van had been used but did not know the cost for the service. He accepts it was an “oversight” on his part not to have moved to correct that. Last November freelance journalist Liam Deegan submitted a series of questions to the Minister about these expenses but received no detailed reply. It was only last week that he made inquiries to Stone regarding if the workers were paid.

Will he make a statement on Wednesday?

It is very likely. All of the Opposition party whips agreed to write a joint letter to the Ceann Comhairle requesting that Donohoe make a statement to the Dáil and answer questions on the matter.


What will be the focus of the questions?

They will likely hone in on the amounts involved. There are two donations. The use of the van comes under the €200 limit for a donation from a commercial company. The payment to the workers comes in below the limit of €1,000 for a donation from an individual (Stone). The rules in the Electoral Act stipulate that the value attributed to services must be equivalent to commercial rates. Opposition politicians have already queried this and argued that the value should be much higher. If it were, however, it would breach the upper allowable limit.

Is there any other line of questioning?

Yes. The appointment of Stone to positions on the Land Development Agency’s board and a taskforce seeking to revive north-inner-city Dublin (albeit he waived all fees and expenses) is likely to come up. The Government will also respond with its own examples of Opposition parties having to correct the record retrospectively. Senior Ministers have rallied around Donohoe in the past two days. It’s embarrassing for him given he is Minister for Public Reform, but the episode should not damage him further, unless there are further facts to come.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times