Friday 22 September 2017

Inquiry into SF pay unresolved

John Drennan

John Drennan

THE Sunday Independent has learnt that, six months after the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) launched an inquiry into the alleged practice where Sinn Fein TDs donate the majority of their salaries to the party, the matter has not been resolved to the satisfaction of the ethics watchdog.

The controversy arose when, in June of this year, the the party's new TD, Sandra McLellan, claimed that all income above the national average wage was returned to Sinn Fein.

In the case of TDs, this means that €58,000 of their €92,000 salary would be returned to SF, which would confer that party with an annual benefit of more than €800,000 a year.

However, in the wake of complaints that this represented a breach of the electoral acts, which state that all donations above €5,079 must be publicly declared and that the maximum donation a party can receive is €6,349, the ethics watchdog launched an investigation into the party.

Though no cash is handed over directly to the party in order to avoid breaching the donation limits, Sipo wants to find out if the payment of party workers' salaries by TDs should still be classed as an electoral donation.

Correspondence seen by this newspaper reveals that Sipo are still "seeking further clarification from the parties concerned and has not yet finalised its inquiry''.

The Sipo inquiry is one of a number of ethical embarrassments Sinn Fein has suffered from in a year that also saw Toner-gate, where its chief whip, Aengus O Snodaigh, ran up a bill of €50,000 on printer cartridges in just two years.

It was also revealed that party frontbenchers Pearse Doherty and Padraig Mac Lochlainn had broken Dail rules by using some of their travel and accommodation expenses to hire party workers.

It is believed Sinn Fein will learn the decision of Sipo in November.

Sunday Independent

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