Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Tuesday 26 September 2023 Dublin: 13°C
Sam Boal/ Simon Coveney and Paschal Donohoe at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in November 2022
# ethics
'He's fully corrected the record': Coveney defends Donohoe over undeclared donation
Coveney said he believes that Donohoe has given a “very detailed explanation as to what happened”.

MINISTER FOR ENTERPRISE Simon Coveney has backed his Fine Gael colleague Paschal Donohoe’s handling of the reveal that he did not declare services that were donated to him in 2016, saying the Public Expenditure Minister has “fully corrected the record”.

Donohoe, the minister for public expenditure, apologised at the weekend for failing to declare a donation of services to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) during the 2016 general election campaign after a complaint was made against him, with around €1,000 unaccounted for.

Speaking to Newstalk FM today, Coveney said he believes that Donohoe has given a “very detailed explanation as to what happened”.

“I know that he has worked hard to try to fully understand what happened at that time because let’s not forget, this is about the general election in 2016, when his constituency in Dublin Central was offered assistance to put up and take down posters for Paschal Donohoe,” Coveney said.

“Neither the constituency nor Paschal paid for those services and weren’t aware of the cost of them at the time,” he said.

“This happened back in 2016. He was clear in his statement that that offer of assistance to put up and take down posters – there wasn’t any payment made by the party or him for those services. It was only when he started to look in detail and obviously ask questions as to who paid for what that he established the numbers.

“And now he’s apologised and said that he’d like to have done this earlier and he’s corrected the record fully. He’s done what he can in that regard, but he’s also accepted that he made a mistake here.”

The donation of services was provided by businessman Michael Stone to six individuals, who worked to put up and take down election posters. It has since emerged that businessman Stone is also on the board of the Land Development Agency (LDA), a commercial, State-sponsored body.

These services were provided over four days, with a company van also being used by the individuals hanging posters.

In total, Donohoe says that €1,057 was left unaccounted for in his declarations to Sipo, which is the value of the labour and the company van.

Under Sipo rules, all political donations over the value of €600 must be registered with the ethics watchdog.

Coveney said that the “important thing is that he’s fully corrected the record now”.

“We have an investigation into what’s happened to provide clarity from Sipo and I think we should allow that to take its course,” he said.

“We are tal‌king about trying to put value on what the use of a commercial van, for a certain number of hours, would have been. The value that’s been put on that, I think, now, is €140 back in 2016 and he’s now put that as part of a declaration that’s been corrected.

“I think we do need to have some context here as well.

“Sipo will do a full investigation. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of focus on that investigation when it concludes.

“He holds himself to a very high standard. This was a mistake. He’s put his hand up on that and he’s given I think a credible explanation in terms of what’s happened and he’s corrected the record. We’ll await the full review from Sipo and answer any further questions that may arise from that.

Donohoe has recused himself from some of his duties as Public Expenditure Minister relating to Sipo due to his department’s oversight of the watchdog.

Opposition politicians have been calling for further explanation from the minister on the incident.

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said long-overdue reform of Ireland’s ethics legislation must not be delayed by the recusal.

She suggested that responsibility for reform of ethics legislation be given to Minister for Finance Michael McGrath, who was overseeing the work until the recent Cabinet reshuffle.

Labour TD Ged Nash accused the government of having a “laissez-faire approach to ethics rules”.

“The multiple failures to declare registrable interests, the revolving door between politics and business lobbyists, and the multitude of concerns highlighted by SIPO over many years over the inadequacy of Ireland’s ethics laws clearly demonstrates the urgent need for reform of ethics legislation,” he said.

“Confidence in politics and trust in our democracy is at stake.”