Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said he has confidence in Paschal Donohoe to stay in his job after he spoke to the Minister for Public Expenditure this weekend about the controversy over his election expenses.
The Fianna Fáil leader said he is “satisfied” with what he heard from Mr Donohoe and he said a “comprehensive account” of the matter will be offered to the Dáil on Tuesday.
There is an expectation that Mr Donohoe, a Dublin Central TD for Fine Gael, will outline an issue relating to his 2020 election expenses statement to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) in his fresh Dáil statement.
A complaint has been made to Sipo over Mr Donohoe’s failure to make declarations related to his posters for the 2016 election.
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Mr Donohoe has been under huge pressure from the Opposition who insist questions remain after his Dáil statement on Wednesday, particularly surrounding whether or not he needs to amend his Sipo declarations for the 2020 election.
The Minister for Public Expenditure is to take questions from TDs on Tuesday.
There were reports over the weekend that the new issue, related to his 2020 disclosure, is not as significant as the omission of a donation in 2016 worth a total of €1,240 from Michael Stone. The businessman provided six workers and a the use of a van to erect election posters in the Dublin Central constituency during the 2016 campaign.
Opposition politicians have questioned the sums disclosed, arguing the cost of the work related to the posters would have been higher.
In an interview with RTÉ Radio’s This Week programme, Mr Martin said he would not “pre-empt” what Mr Donohoe will tell the Dáil on Tuesday but added: “He does want to bring complete clarity to this.”
He described Mr Donohoe as a “very honourable minister” with “the country’s interests at heart”.
Mr Martin said: “Whilst obviously adhering to the regulations and the rules and so forth I think balance and perspective is called for when assessing this issue.”
Asked about suggestions the postering work would have cost more, Mr Martin said there are potentially three component parts of election spending: sums spent by the parties at national level; sums spent by the parties on individual candidates; and sums spent by the candidates themselves.
He said it is “not as simple” as some in the Opposition have “mistakenly” suggested in their commentary.
Asked if he has questions for Mr Donohoe, Mr Martin replied: “He’s spoken to me over the weekend and I’m satisfied with what he has said to me.”
He said Sipo would ultimately decide on the issues that have been the subject of the complaint.
Mr Martin said it is his view Mr Donohoe should not resign on the basis the affair would causing a distraction to Government, saying all ministers “are entirely focused on the task at hand and the big issues of the day”.
Asked if he has confidence in Mr Donohoe to remain in the job on the basis of the conversations he has had with him, Mr Martin said: “I do”.
He added: “I think he’s made a significant contribution to this Government in terms of the cohesion within the Government and, along with Minister Michael McGrath, both I think have been a very strong anchor in terms of the management of the public finances ... I think he is a very capable minister. Of course I have confidence in him.”