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Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Paschal Donohoe Leah Farrell
donohoe to blame

Explainer: Why is Paschal Donohoe still in hot water over political donation declarations?

The Minister is now due to make a further statement to the Dáil on Tuesday.

LAST UPDATE | Jan 20th 2023, 9:45 PM

FIVE DAYS AGO, Paschal Donohoe appeared at Merrion Square to make an apology over his failure to declare a donation of services to the ethics watchdog during the 2016 General Election campaign.

He told reporters that a complaint had been made against him to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo), over the donation of services which saw six individuals being paid by businessman Michael Stone to put up posters for him during the 2016 campaign.

Then on Wednesday, he appeared in the Dáil to make a statement on the matter, where he detailed that Stone had bought Fine Gael ‘superdraw’ tickets from him in both 2020 and 2021.

However, that was expected to be the end of his pronouncements on the matter, as he told the Dáil he wouldn’t be commenting further to not have “any undue influence” on any process SIPO may undertake.

Then, on Thursday during a questions session, he confirmed that he was planning to make a further statement to the Dáil next week.

This has been set for Tuesday, with Donohoe due to first address the Dáil for 10 minutes before each opposition group has six minutes for a back-and-forth question and answer session.

What was initially expected to be a minor issue has ballooned and has dominated politics in Leinster House over the last week.

But how did we get here and what exactly has Paschal Donohoe done?

Election donation

The initial issue that began this controversy was the revelation that Donohoe had received an undeclared donation of services during the 2016 General Election campaign.

This donation of services was provided by six individuals, who worked to put up and take down election posters.

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

The donation itself was provided by businessman Michael Stone, CEO of the Designer Group engineering firm.

Donohoe said that he was initially unaware that the six people hanging his posters had been paid for their work, believing it to be voluntary. He added that he was also unaware of a company van being used.

However, he did tell reporters and the Dáil that he did become aware of allegations that a company van was being used in 2017.

He said he should have amended his election expense form “to the value of €140 to take account of the commercial value of a vehicle for the hours used” and added: “This was a clear mistake on my part and I acknowledge and apologise for that error.”

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

Under Sipo rules, all political donations over the value of €600 must be registered with the ethics watchdog, while politicians cannot accept a donation of more than €1,000 from an individual.

Meanwhile, any corporate donor making a donation over €200 in value, whether in money or as a service, must register with SIPO as a corporate donor.

Alongside the statement, Donohoe confirmed that he would be recusing himself from all decisions surrounding ethics legislation as well as responsibility for Sipo, which falls under his Department.

Superdraw tickets

The most recent revelation came from Donohoe on Wednesday, where he told the Dáil that he had sold Stone, who provided the labour and company van, tickets to the Fine Gael superdraw.

Speaking in the Dáil, Donohoe said that Stone “is a man of the very highest standards”.

He said that Stone had “made a donation to Fine Gael by the purchase of superdraw tickets which was sold by me”.

These superdraw tickets are essentially raffle tickets, with cash prizes available within constituencies.

Why all the fuss?

There have been questions asked by opposition parties, particularly over Donohoe’s assertions that the donations were made to the Fine Gael organisation in Dublin Central, rather than to him as a candidate.

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said that it was “laughable”, while Labour’s Ged Nash labelled it as a “red herring”.

Other TDs questioned Donohoe’s figures, with co-leader of the Social Democrats, Róisín Shortall saying that he had “reverse-engineered” the payments made.

She told the Dáil: “You seem to have gotten the deal of the century.”

“The six individuals working in three teams of two were paid a grand total of €1,100 euro for their efforts over four days. That’s approximately €180 euro each.

“Is there an invoice or a pay slip that can be produced to demonstrate that this was the actual amount that was paid?”

Shortall added that “we see all the signs of reverse engineering of the figures in order to fit in with the spending and donations limits”.

While this controversy has knocked some of the shine off the Public Expenditure Minister, it is not yet clear whether it will lead to his downfall.

However, if more questions than answers are raised on Tuesday, there may be choppy waters ahead for the Government.

Additional reporting by Christina Finn and Diarmuid Pepper

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