Paschal Donohoe will answer questions in Dáil next week over expenses and donations after he makes another statement
Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe take questions on the growing controversy over his 2016 general election posters next Tuesday.
The Dáil business committee agreed on Thursday afternoon that the embattled Fine Gael minister will make a 10-minute statement after Taoiseach’s Questions next Tuesday afternoon.
There will then be six minutes for each opposition group and party with questions and answers immediately taken at each slot.
It follows a demand from the opposition whom Mr Donohoe failed to answer when they posed questions to him in response to Wednesday evening's initial statement by the minister on the matter.
TDs had hoped to hear from Mr Donohoe on Thursday afternoon after he told the Dáil he would make another statement at "the earliest available opportunity".
However, his spokesperson said: "The minister is tied up with a number of meetings across the afternoon."
Earlier Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said it was now essential Mr Donohoe answers questions about his relationship with Engineering Group chief executive Michael Stone who has provided political donations to Fine Gael.
Speaking during Leader’s Questions in the Dáil, Mr Doherty drew comparisons between Tánaiste Micheál Martin sacking Barry Cowen for failing to answer questions on his drink driving charge and Mr Donohoe’s current situation.
In response, Taoiseach Micheál Martin paid tribute to Mr Donohoe, saying is a “very competent and dedicated” politicians who has “the country’s interests at heart”.
The Fianna Fáil leader said it is “absolutely essential” that TDs adhere to the rules around election donations and spending but said there is a need for “balance and perspective”.
Mr Martin also said the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) is investigating a complaint about Mr Donohoe and raised concerns about the Dáil carrying out a “parallel process”.
He did not address the comparison with Mr Cowen’s sacking.
Mr Martin also highlighted the fact Sinn Féin received a more than €4m donation from a reclusive English millionaire which they processed during their Northern Ireland offices so they would would not be subjected to Irish election and donation laws.
Mr Doherty noted Mr Donohoe is the minister for overseeing Sipo regulations and said the ethics watchdog “begged for new powers” in recent years but was refused by the minister.
The Sinn Féin TD again asked if Mr Stone paid for Mr Donohoe’s posters to be erected in 2020.
The Taoiseach said Mr Donohoe contacted him on Saturday and apologised about the controversy.
Mr Donohoe told the Dáil after Leader’s Questions that he is not in a position to make a statement until at the earliest next week.
Mr Doherty said it was “unacceptable” that he would not address the chamber today and said the Opposition members on the Dáil’s Business Committee had sought a questions and answers session with the minister today.
Meanwhile, Labour Party chief whip Duncan Smith said he raised the issue Mr Donohoe making a second statement at the Dáil business committee today. However, Mr Smith said Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaíl and Government Chief Whip Hildegarde Naughton were unaware of Mr Donohoe’s request.
Mr Smith said the view of the committee was that Mr Donohoe should make a statement today.
Today it emerged Mr Donohoe will make a new Dáil statement about his election expenses and donations.
Speaking in the Dáil during parliamentary questions, Mr Donohoe announced his attention to address the chamber again over the controversy surrounding a political donation he received from businessman Michael Stone.
The minister said he spoke to the Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaíl and asked if he could make a second statement on matter at the “earliest opportunity” to ensure offer clarity on his previous statement.
Sinn Féin’s Mairéad Farrell said the Opposition should be provided with a questions and answers session after the statement as they were not provided with the opportunity yesterday.
Ms Farrell continued with the Sinn Féin line of questioning over whether Mr Stone paid for posters to be erected during the 2020 General Election as he had done in during the campaign four years earlier.
Mr Donohoe’s spokesperson said on Tuesday that the minister’s posters were erected by “volunteers” in 2020.
Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin said whether Paschal Donohoe should be investigated is up to Sipo to decide and his transparency to address the Dail again is “welcomed”.
“I really think it's for Sipo to decide. There is a complaint there, Sipo has the expertise on this and if they decide to investigate then I think that’s the best place for it,” she said in Dublin today at the launch of TradFest.
“Minister Donoghue is trying to be as transparent as possible in asking to come before the house again, and that is something the Ceann Comhairle will discuss how that will happen.
“He has decided to come before the house again, so he wants as much transparency and clarity around the issue and I think that is to be welcomed.”
Separately, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan warned against turning the Dáil in to a ‘star chamber’ for interrogation over the Paschal Donohoe affair.
He said he believed Sipo was the best forum to examine the issues.
But he said accepted Minister Donohoe’s judgement in deciding to make further statements to the Dáil.
"We have to be careful that the Dáil chamber doesn’t replace Sipo. It is the job of Sipo to consider whether further investigation [is needed] or any further questions need to be answered,” he said.
“Paschal himself has said he wants to respond to some of those questions. Then I’m sure the Ceann Comhairle will facilitate him in that and I don’t have any problem with that.
"But I do think we have to be slightly careful. Politicians policing politicians is always going to be difficult because let those without sin cast the first stone.
"I would have thought the key place to answer such questions is Sipo because you do have to be careful that we don’t turn ourselves into a star chamber but if Paschal made that judgement call then I don’t have a problem with him doing that.”
Mr Ryan would not say if he personally believed Mr Donohoe had more questions to answer.
"He’s decided he wants to answer those questions and he has that right,” he said at the launch of the Government’s new electric vehicle strategy.