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Micheál Martin Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland
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Martin suggests Fine Gael has 'a hand' in 'consistent targeting' of PAC chair

Micheál Martin defended his party colleague and chair of the Public Accounts Committee, John McGuinness, today.

FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Micheál Martin has suggested that Fine Gael has had “a hand” in stirring up controversy about the chair of the Public Accounts Committee, John McGuinness.

Martin was speaking this afternoon amid ongoing controversy surrounding comments by McGuinness yesterday that the State, in certain circumstances, should cover the costs of a spouse accompanying a minister on trade missions abroad.

This followed a report in the Irish Independent that McGuinness had lobbied for this to be the case when he was a junior minister in the Department of Enterprise, a time when Micheál Martin was the senior minister.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Martin says there was “no big deal about it” when McGuinness raised the matter six years ago and accused the Taoiseach of “very unacceptable politicisation” of the issue in response to Enda Kenny’s comments that the matter was “damaging” to politics.

“Nobody is saying that he has not been performing as a chair should,” Martin said of McGuinness’s role as the chairman of the public spending watchdog. He added:

“I regret that the Taoiseach in a rather cheap way, on an international setting, decided to get involved politically and create, I think, aspersions and innuendo around John McGuinness that was unwarranted in that regard.”

“John McGuinness doesn’t believe in a la carte travel for spouses either,” Martin went on to say, adding “it seems that John McGuinness is being targeted.”

Asked who he thought was behind the targeting of the Fianna Fáil deputy, Martin responded: “I don’t know who is pulling all the strings behind the scenes?”

“I do recognise the Fine Gael party’s hand in it, I regret to say. I think some of their members are coming under pressure to keep raising particular issues as they are dealt with one-by-one,” he added.

Martin went on to insist that no regulation had been broken by McGuinness in relation to this controversy or others, also reported in the Irish Independent, concerning the cost of refurbishing his ministerial office six years ago and overtime paid to his son, who worked for him.

Earlier on the same programme, the independent TD and PAC member Shane Ross said that the involvement of party leaders is “damaging” to the PAC but admitted that there are “virtually no circumstances in which it is justifiable” for spouses’ travel to be paid for.

Howlin: Paying travel costs for spouses ‘not the pattern’ of this government

Read: FF leader stands by McGuinness as Kenny brands him ‘damaging’ to politics

Video: Spending watchdog chair ‘should resign’ over spouse travel remarks

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