Donohoe recuses himself from some duties and apologises for election ‘mistakes’
Public Expenditure Secretary Paschal Donohoe has stepped down from some of his ministerial duties after it was revealed he failed to report all benefits paid during his 2016 general election campaign.
The services relate to the putting up and taking down of election posters, which Mr Donohoe said he believes were voluntary.
He said he had applied to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) to have his file amended and apologized for the oversight.
“I have spoken to the Taoiseach, to the Tanaist and to Minister Ryan, explaining the situation to them and apologizing for my mistakes,” he said in a statement in Dublin on Sunday.
“I have taken responsibility for making all supporters aware of their commitments at the time of the election and the statement of responsibility rests with me.
“I deeply regret this situation and the role I played in it.”
The minister addressed the concerns after a complaint was made to the Irish Elections Authority that he had not donated services provided during the 2016 general election campaign.
Mr Donohoe said he received confirmation of that complaint on Friday, although he had been made aware that a complaint was likely weeks earlier.
Because his ministry includes oversight of election ethics watchdog Sipo, Mr Donohoe said he is abstaining himself from making certain decisions regarding Sipo until it makes a decision.
Giving a sequence of events report, the Fine Gael minister said his party’s Dublin Central branch had been offered assistance in its 2016 re-election campaign by putting up and removing placards.
“This help was to be understood as voluntary. It was provided four nights before and after Election Day during the campaign,” he said.
“Six people were involved, working in three pairs. Neither I nor the campaign team paid the people involved, nor was I aware at the time that they were being paid.
“For this reason, no costs for the election costs filed with the Sipo after this election have been attributed to this support.
“Given a complaint lodged with Sipo regarding this support and the letter I received on Friday from Sipo acknowledging receipt of a complaint, I have been undertaking a full review of the campaign for the past few weeks. During the course of the review, I was informed that the individuals involved had been paid for their help with this campaign.
“This was a personal payment from an individual in support of Fine Gael in Dublin Central.
“It wasn’t done with funds from any body. The total payment to the people involved was 1,100 euros, of which 917 euros are attributable to the campaign period. The rest is post-election work.”
He said in hindsight he should have changed his 2017 election expenses form after a complaint was made about a company vehicle used.
He said: “This was a clear oversight on my part, which I acknowledge and for which I apologize.
“Having been made aware of the payment to individuals in recent weeks, it is clear to me that the value of the work involved, amounting to around 917 euros, should also have been shown in my election costs.
“Therefore I have now requested that my declaration of choice be amended to reflect what I now know to include an additional expense of €1,057 for the declaration for this campaign of €1,057 which reflects the equivalent commercial value of the vehicle (€140 ) reflects.
He added: “I always hold myself to the highest professional standards and I deeply regret that this matter was not addressed head-on in 2016. Given the information now available to me, I have taken the appropriate steps to cover the subject as comprehensively as I can.
“As Minister of Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Implementation and Reform, the Sipo is associated with my department. For this reason, and to ensure full transparency and independence in this matter, I firstly oppose any political decision to further develop ethics legislation; secondly, any decision regarding Sipo pending the completion of a trial regarding the matter and I have written to the Secretary General of the Department with this instruction.
It comes days after Fine Gael TD Damien English resigned as junior enterprise minister after it emerged he had failed to disclose ownership of a plot of land in a planning application to his local council.
As a result, calls have been made to strengthen ethics legislation and the duties of parliamentarians; The Sipo has repeatedly called for more resources and powers to oversee standards and ethics in recent years.
Mr Donohoe first became TD for Dublin Central in 2011 and has been re-elected twice. In December he was re-elected to a second term as President of the Eurogroup – an informal gathering of finance ministers from eurozone countries.