Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe has said he will make a further statement in relation to issues involving the 2016 general election campaign.
Mr Donohoe told the Dáil on Thursday morning that he plans to make another statement at the “earliest possible opportunity”.
“I do plan to make a further statement in relation to issues involving the 2016 general election campaign and matters that were put to me last night,” he said.
Following the end of Leaders’ Questions, Paschal Donohoe clarifies that he is not in a position to come before the Dáil today to make his statement adding he will do so at the earliest opportunity. Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty says it is completely and utterly unacceptable that the minister would not come before the House until next week.
Independent TD Danny Healy Rae brings up the issue of hotel beds for refugees and asks would other accommodation be found for them to free up rooms in Killarney and Kerry as the tourist season kicks off in March. He asks what accommodation the Government has found for them.
The Tánaiste says Ireland has international obligations under international law. He says there is a legal obligation on the State in respect of people fleeing war.
In response, Mr Martin said the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue is to discuss “other models” with Coillte so it can achieve forestry aims and there will be no privatisation of public land.
Holly Cairns is up next for the Social Democrats and asks what the Government knows about Coillte planning to sell off vast tracts of rural Ireland to a British investment fund and when they first knew about this. She asked why aren’t alternatives being looked at and would the Government review the decision.
In response, Tánaiste Micheál Martin says Paschal Donohoe is a very competent, dedicated and honourable minister. He said that is his experience in his engagement with the minister and that Mr Donohoe continues to have the country’s interests at heart.
Mr Martin said balance and perspective was needed in how they approach these issues. He said it was essential members of the House adhere to rules around political donations and electoral spending.
The Tánaiste said Mr Donohoe had come before the Dáil already and would do so again. He also said the minister spoke with him on Sunday and outlined what had transpired and apologised for the omission.
Pearse Doherty begins Leaders’ Questions by saying Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe is “embroiled in controversy” and refused to answer questions in the Dáil on Wednesday. He said what happened in the chamber last night was farcical and completely unacceptable.
Mr Doherty said the minister has addressed the Dáil twice on the issue, making statements, but has answered no questions.
He said Mr Donohoe is due to make a further statement but has refused point blank to answer the dozens of questions put to him.
The Sinn Féin deputy leader has asked the Tánaiste does he believe Paschal Donohoe and “which version of his story do you believe?”
He said a statement does not cut it, they demand accountability, want questions and answers format, and “we demand the minister comes clean”.
It is not yet clear when the minister will make the further statement and is now taking questions on cost overruns in major public works contracts. Leaders’ Questions will be up at noon.
Ms Farrell said Mr Donohoe had the “perfect opportunity” to answer questions in relation to his 2016 general election campaign expenses during priority questions on Thursday, which would run over 1.5 hours.
She said the minister did not answer questions put to him in the Dáil on Wednesday by the Opposition.
Her party colleague Pearse Doherty asked would the Dáil’s Order of Business be changed given the minister had outlined he would make a further statement. Mr Doherty said clarification was required.
Mr Donohoe said he would make the statement at the earliest possible opportunity, “at which point I will revert back to the Ceann Comhairle”.
Mr Donohoe made the comments prior to taking priority questions in the Dáil.
Sinn Féin TD Mairéad Farrell said there was “no way we can go into business as usual here today” in relation to the questions listed “when we look what has happened over the last number of days and the scandal that the minister has been embroiled in over the last number of days”.
“The minister has failed to clarify in relation to this scandal and there’s a number of questions, because the minister failed to answer questions yesterday in the Dáil,” she said.
The Galway West TD asked who in 2017 brought it to the minister’s attention about the company van used in 2016, what actions were taken and at what value did he calculate the work.
The minister said he had not yet indicated to the Ceann Comhairle when he would make the statement and that he wanted to ensure that the “information that I am sharing is as accurate as possible”.
Hello there, Sarah Burns here reporting from Leinster House where the Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe is taking questions.