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Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe Leah Farrell

Explainer: Why is Paschal Donohoe in hot water over his expense declarations?

Sinn Féin have said that the Public Expenditure Minister’s explanation was “simply not credible”.

OVER THE WEEKEND, Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe apologised for failing to declare a donation of services to the ethics watchdog during the 2016 General Election campaign.

It follows on from a complaint being made against Donohoe for not declaring the services to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) following the election.

Due to his Department’s oversight of Sipo, Donohoe has since recused himself from some of his duties as Public Expenditure Minister relating to the ethics watchdog.

With the complaint process now underway, there have been new calls for Donohoe to further explain himself, with Sinn Féin calling for a “comprehensive statement” while Labour seek a Dáil statement.

Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Enterprise and Employment, Louise O’Reilly, said that Donohoe’s explanation yesterday was “simply not credible”.

“Paschal Donohoe has provided an explanation for breaching rules governing donations and electoral expenses this evening that does not stack up and is simply not credible,” she said.

What was the issue?

Overall, the issue relates to the declaration of a donation of services to Donohoe 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.

Donohoe told reporters yesterday that he originally was unaware that the six individuals were paid for their postering work, believing it to be voluntary. He also said that he was unaware that a company van was used.

“Neither myself nor the campaign team paid the people involved, nor was I at that time aware they had been paid. For that reason, no cost was attributed to this support on the election expense submitted to Sipo following that election,” Donohoe said.

He said that due to the complaint being made against him, he undertook a review of his election expenses, where he discovered that the individuals had been paid and that a company van was used.

Donohoe told reporters that the payment itself was made by an individual in support of Fine Gael in Dublin Central and that it was not made by a corporate entity.

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.

However, he added that he became aware of an allegation in 2017 that a company van had been used but that he had not updated his declarations.

“This was a clear oversight on my part, which I acknowledge and apologise for,” Donohoe said, adding that he had since amended his election statement to account for the payment of the six individuals alongside the use of the company van.

Following the complaint, Donohoe says that he has now updated his declarations.

Has it been resolved?

At the moment, it remains unclear, with opposition parties calling for Donohoe to further explain himself.

In particular, Sinn Féin’s O’Reilly zeroed in on Donohoe’s admission that he was contacted by media in November about the issue and had said all statements were accurate.

“It is not credible that he did not know that a company was carrying out campaign work on his behalf, and that this was not a declarable donation or that he was required to set this out as an election expense,” O’Reilly said.

Donohoe defended this when questioned yesterday, saying that he believed it to be accurate at the time he was asked.

“It is incumbent on Paschal Donohoe to make a comprehensive statement on this matter setting out what he knew and when, because the explanation provided this evening simply does not stack up,” O’Reilly added.

Labour’s Ged Nash told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne that it would be helpful for Donohoe to address the Dáil on the issues.

“There are some very significant outstanding questions that I think the minister does have to answer and I think he will accept that himself.”

Donohoe yesterday did say that he would “participate in any process in the Oireachtas if needed to make a statement on this matter”.

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