Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe has identified issue with his 2020 general election expenses

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photo Agency

Hugh O'Connell

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe has identified an issue with his 2020 general election expenses amid controversy over his relationship with businessman Michael Stone.

The Fine Gael minister changed his stance on Mr Stone’s role in the 2020 General Election after previously suggesting he had no involvement in the campaign.

Earlier this week, Mr Donohoe’s spokesperson said only “volunteers” were involved in hanging posters for the Minister when the country last went to the polls four years ago.

However, since questions have been raised by Sinn Féin about whether the Designer Group’s chief executive paid any money towards the 2020 election, Mr Donohoe’s spokesperson is now refusing to answer questions.

The Irish Independent understands that Mr Donohoe will attempt to clarify an issue with his 2020 expenses in the coming days.

He is due to make a further Dáil statement on Tuesday. He spent Thursday afternoon “further reviewing material”, according to his spokesperson.

Fine Gael sources have said the minister may seek to clarify matters before his Dáil statement on Tuesday.

Mr Donohoe’s spokesperson refused to comment late on Friday when contacted.

Mr Donohoe has been under increasing political pressure over his relationship with the multi-millionaire engineering boss since last Sunday.

The Sunday Independent revealed last weekend that a complaint had been made to the State’s ethics watchdog, Sipo, that Mr Stone had paid for Mr Donohoe’s posters to be erected in Dublin Central during the 2016 general election.

The payment was not disclosed as a donation to Mr Donohoe in his election expenses returns and he has since claimed the work amounted to €1,057, a figure that is a fraction of the usual expense incurred from putting up and taking down posters.

Mr Donohoe’s close relationship with Mr Stone, whose wedding he attended last year, has also come under scrutiny as the businessman is on the board of the powerful state housing body, the Land Development Agency, and was one of the names recommended by Mr Donohoe for appointment as chair of the North East Inner City taskforce, a position he has held for the last six years.

He has also claimed this was an effective donation to the Fine Gael organisation in his constituency and not himself and was therefore within donation rules.

Mr Donohoe, who has officially recorded having met Mr Stone over a dozen times over the last five years, has also disclosed donations from Mr Stone to the value of over €1,700 to Fine Gael through the purchase of tickets for the party’s annual super draw raffle.

Mr Stone, who bought the tickets from Mr Donohoe, has not commented on the controversy.

Opposition parties have questioned the credibility of Mr Donohoe's explanation for his spending on poster erection in 2016 and the Fine Gael TD infuriated deputies on Tuesday by failing to answer any of the questions they posed on the matter.

He subsequently said on Thursday that he would make a further statement on the matter but later indicated he would not be available to the Dáil until next Tuesday.

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