Monday 25 September 2017

Mahon Tribunal: Fine Gael councillor Therese Ridge to appeal removal of party whip

Cllr Therese Ridge: accepted
'inappropriate' donations
Cllr Therese Ridge: accepted 'inappropriate' donations

Independent.ie reporters and Fionnan Sheahan

A Fine Gael councillor, disciplined on foot of the Mahon Tribunal, has announced her decision to appeal the removal of the party whip and potential expulsion.

The decision of the Fine Gael disciplinary committee has been suspended pending the outcome of the appeal.



Speaking on the Pat Kenny show on Radio One today, the veteran councillor said she supported the Quarryvale development as it was the best option for her constituents.



She said there were no rules on declaring donations before 1997 and she was grateful to get money from Frank Dunlop to fund her election campaigns.



She described the outcome of the Fine Gael inquiry into her actions as “almost unbelievable”.



Hitting back at the party's record of accepting donations, Ms Ridge claimed to the Irish Independent that she was being scapegoated.



She pointed to the party's acceptance of large donations from businessmen Ben Dunne and Denis O'Brien and their associated companies.



Contrasting her treatment with Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell being cleared, she said she was "hurt, shocked and angry" at the way she was treated by the party.



Although Ms Mitchell and Ms Ridge both accepted donations from lobbyist Frank Dunlop, which the tribunal found were "inappropriate", only one of them fell foul of the party inquiry.



Ms Ridge lost the party whip and faces possible expulsion from Fine Gael if she doesn't abide by the punishment.



Fine Gael's Disciplinary Committee found it was "injudicious and unwise" for her to have accepted the donation.



Ms Ridge said she was delighted Ms Mitchell, her "good friend and colleague", was exonerated but she said a comparison between the two cases was "instructive".



"She received a sum of £500 from Frank Dunlop as a donation towards her electoral expenses in November 1992. This was the same time as the donation was made to me," she said.



Fine Gael found Ms Ridge's relationship with Mr Dunlop "severely compromised her role as a public representative".



"Failure to declare an interest and abstention on votes was also wholly inappropriate and damaging to the interests of Fine Gael," the party said.



Ms Ridge is also scathing in her criticism of the party's attitude to political donations and highlighted the substantial sums from businessmen highlighted in the tribunals.



"I ask rhetorically how many of those payments would pass the test applied to me -- namely that taking any payment which even created a perception that it was anything other than 'wholesome or legitimate' was wrong. I would think none," she said.



"A significant number of people in the party must have been aware that such a perception could very easily be created by accepting such payments."

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News