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Ceann Comhairle asks committee to investigate impact of Wallace's tax affairs

Sean Barrett wants the Committee on Members’ Interests to consider conducting an investigation “as you may see fit”.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett believes news of Wallace's affairs could have implications for
Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett believes news of Wallace's affairs could have implications for "democracy and the standing of the Dáil".
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE CEANN COMHAIRLE of the Dáil, Seán Barrett, has asked the Dáil’s committee on members’ interests to meet and consider conducting an investigation into Mick Wallace’s tax affairs and their impact on the reputation of the Dáil.

In a letter published by the Houses of the Oireachtas this afternoon, Barrett asked independent TD Thomas Pringle – who chairs the committee on members’ interests – to “examine the issues raised” by Wallace’s admission that his company had deliberately under-declared its VAT.

“In view of the grave issues raised [...] and the implications this has for democracy and the standing of the Dáil and the Members, I would request that your committee would examine the issues raised with a view to conducting an appropriate investigation as you may see fit,” he said.

Barrett said his request came because the procedural committee he chairs himself – the Dáil Committee on Procedure and Privileges – “would appear to have no function in the matter”.

By contrast, the Ceann Comhairle wrote, the Ethics in Public Office legislation appeared to give a role to the Select Committee on Members’ Interests of which Pringle was elected chairman last year.

Earlier this morning, however, Pringle said it was unlikely that his committee would be in a position to investigate Wallace’s affairs, which came to light yesterday when he revealed details of a €2.1 million settlement with Revenue.

Pringle had told Newstalk’s Breakfast programme that Wallace, in his capacity as the secretary of M. & J. Wallace Ltd, had underdeclared his VAT by €1.4 million before becoming a TD in February 2011.

Because of this – and because the settlement was made with Wallace’s company, rather than Wallace himself as a private individual – he said it was unlikely that Wallace’s actions would fall under the remit of his committee.

The committee on members’ interests has the power to recommend the suspension of a member if it believes them to have acted inappropriately in the course of their duties, though it does not have the power to eject members from the Dáil entirely.

A similar Seanad committee recommended a 20-day suspension in the case of Ivor Callely in July 2010, though that suspension was later overturned in the High Court and is currently awaiting a ruling in the Supreme Court.

Read: TDs to Wallace: ‘Pay up using whatever resources you have’

Poll: Should Mick Wallace resign?

More: Technical group TDs: ‘Massive difference’ between Wallace’s actions and household charge boycott

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Gavan Reilly

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