Government TDs expect Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe to survive a vital Dáil outing about his election expenses on Tuesday but an underlying nervousness about the affair remains on the Coalition benches.
Mr Donohoe is set to detail fresh disclosures about his 2020 election expenses, following an ongoing controversy over corrections he made to filings in the previous general election.
A spokeswoman for Mr Donohoe said on Monday evening he is “keen” to address the Dáil shortly before 4pm on Tuesday, with Government sources bullish on Monday evening.
A senior source said there was confidence that all questions and clarifications “that are asked will be answered ... And that we then have a chance to move on and address the bread and butter issues”.
Mr Donohoe has been grappling with a controversy over his election expenses for over a week, since it emerged he failed to properly record that a friend had paid for the erection of some of his posters in 2016.
Businessman Michael Stone, who was in 2019 appointed to the board of the Land Development Agency and northeast Inner City taskforce – a post for which he has waived his fees, paid a total of €1,100 to workers for postering, as well as buying raffle tickets from Mr Donohoe. The Minister has said he did not know the workers were paid, a stance the opposition has described as not credible.
Mr Donohoe’s spokeswoman said all issues raised “have been treated with absolute sincerity and seriousness by the Minister – he will address the matters raised, both through his speech and by taking questions in the Dáil.”
He briefed Coalition leaders over the weekend and on Monday morning, with all of them saying they were satisfied with what he had to tell them. Privately, Coalition TDs also expect Mr Donohoe to come through the controversy but are reserving final judgment until after his Dáil appearance. “His judgment and reputation for judgment has been definitely damaged,” a Fianna Fáil source said.
Some Government TDs are of the view that Mr Donohoe should have classified the payments as donations, rather than expenses, while others are apprehensive about what may yet emerge. “I’m confident that he will put it to bed but we’ll only know tomorrow in relation to what’s going to come up,” one Fine Gael backbencher said.
Sinn Féin is yet to decide whether to move a motion of no confidence in Mr Donohoe, it is understood, with the party reserving its position until after the question and answer session.
Independent TDs who spoke to The Irish Times on Monday were for the most part reserving their positions ahead of the vote.
Roscommon-Galway TD Denis Naughten said: “Most people are willing to wait and hear what the minister has to say in the house tomorrow.”
“Everyone is conscious of the challenges there in making returns after every elecetin – it will all depend on the scale of the correction that has to be made.”
His constituency colleague Michael Fitzmaurice said there was a need to do a “proper Q&A” but that the issue hadn’t been raised with him much by constituents – a view shared by Clare TD Michael McNamara, who said constituents were asking him to instead focus on health and housing.
However, Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry said that while Mr Donohoe was a “gentleman” his view was that the Minister had further questions to answer. Mr MacSharry said a standardised toolkit for sanctioning politicians should be developed. “Until it is, we cannot have one rule for Hogan, Calleary, Cowen and within a Fianna Fáil context MacSharry and a different approach to others.” He also criticised the media what he said were “breathtaking” efforts to save Mr Donohoe’s position.