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Thursday 19 October 2017

Eimear Ni Bhraonain: Jet-setting football lover still one of Dail's great enigmas

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

HE loves football, food and family -- and he doesn't spend too much time worrying about what people think of him.

Independent TD Mick Wallace is the father of four children -- from two different women -- and yesterday, as the debate raged over his €2m tax bill, he was heading off to Poland to cheer on the Irish team with his 18-year-old son. He promised his son Joe and a pal that he'd take them over.

Mr Wallace walks, talks and looks like a common man. He's got the long hair, the pink polo T-shirt and he's soccer-mad.

When he was seen around Dublin in the Celtic Tiger years -- in his trademark luminous vest to match his hair colour -- nobody could believe he owned M&J Wallace Construction.

The Wexford builder, wine importer and owner of Wexford Youths FC has a third-level education from UCD.

While he appears regularly as one of Vincent Browne's favourite guests on TV3 and is arguably the most recognisable TDs in the Dail, he is a person about whom we know little.

The qualified teacher, who turned his back on the profession as there was more money in construction, spends a lot of time jetting to and from Italy, attending soccer matches (he holds season tickets for several clubs) and hanging around Leinster House.

He is from the hard-working Wallace family in Wellington Bridge, Co Wexford, where they have built up a small empire.

Despite his Wexford roots, few people knew anything about Mr Wallace's personal life before he burst on to the political scene recently.

He married a local woman, from Duncormick, Co Wexford, in 1979. He and Mary Murphy had two sons, Sasha and Fionn.

However, his first marriage was short-lived and ended while the couple's children were still young. When he was interviewed by one newspaper last year, Mr Wallace said that despite owning millions to the banks and other creditors, his darkest day was the breakdown of his marriage 23 years ago.

"That's tough, you know," he said.

"The woman I married was a very good woman and we were very close and all and it was very tough on the kids. But that's just the way it happened."

The children, now aged 30 and 28, still lived with him in Fairview last year.

"They're fine," he said. "They have a very good relationship with their mother and they have a very good relationship with me."

Rebel

He and his eldest son, Sasha, shared salaries of €289,000 from the Wallace construction business in 2008. Mr Wallace said most of this went towards paying mortgages.

In the same interview, he revealed that he had two more children, Grainne and Joe Barry Wallace. These children were born while he had a relationship with Dublin schoolteacher Patricia Barry in the 1990s.

They are no longer together but "she's a good friend", according to the Wexford TD.

He is also a father who has been in the principal's office more than once. His youngest son was among four students expelled from the Oatlands College in Stillorgan, Dublin over allegedly posting insulting material about teachers on Facebook.

They appealed their expulsion.

These days, he has struck up a friendship with Socialist TD Clare Daly, with whom he has been photographed dining in Dublin. He has also been seen drinking in her company in city-centre pubs.

There was mixed reaction to Mick Wallace's under-declared VAT in New Ross yesterday.

While the town council's cathaoirleach (chair) Annette Larkin said it was "a bit hypocritical" for him to head off to Poland and agreed with leas-cathaoirleach Paul Crowdle's call for him to "consider his position", others didn't agree.

Independent John Dwyer, who stood against Mr Wallace at the last general election, said he would be "disappointed" if the TD threw in the towel as he would be "handing a seat to Fine Gael in Wexford".

He added: "He got an astounding 13,500 first-preference votes. The tax he owed was the talk of the pubs, all of these things were known.

"Because he was such a rebel, because he was prepared to stick the finger up at the authorities, he got elected."

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Irish Independent

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