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Saturday 23 September 2017

Mary Davis: There was no cronyism in my business deals

Brian Hutton

PRESIDENTIAL hopeful Mary Davis has insisted she had nothing to do with the granting of a lucrative charity contract to her husband's PR company.

The independent candidate confirmed both she and her husband Julian Davis were on the board of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, although she has since stood down.



But she denied there was any "cronyism" involved in the awarding of a deal worth tens of thousands of euro by the not-for-profit organisation to Fleishman Hillard, of which Mr Davis is a director, as reported in today’s Irish Independent.



"We had absolutely nothing to do with the awarding of contracts in public relations and communications, or in any other area," she said.



Under questioning about her role on the board of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland and other agencies during her official campaign launch, Ms Davis said she would have stood aside if there had been any discussions at board level about PR contracts.



"There was absolutely no cronyism at play here," she said.



"I had nothing to do with the awarding of the contract and if there were any discussions in relation to the awarding of a contract, like a public relations contract, I was not a party to those discussions."



Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, set up to invest in and support social entrepreneurs, spent around €70,000 on public relations and marketing in 2008 and 2009, according to latest accounts.



Ms Davis said work done by her husband for Special Olympics Ireland, of which she was a head, was done on a pro bono basis, or unpaid.



She also used her launch to challenge Fine Gael to deny it was using pollsters to test negative messages about those running for the Aras on potential voters as part of a strategy to undermine its candidate Gay Mitchell's competitors.



"I don't know why political groups or any candidate would use negative polling in the way it's being used but I do know for a fact that it is being used," she said.



After revealing her almost €400,000 earnings from sitting on boards since 2000, Ms Davis called on other candidates to publish their P60s and tax compliance details.



While she said she has no evidence of any issues surrounding the finances of her competitors, she argued it was in the interests of transparency that they uncover their financial details.



Ms Davis said she was appointed to three state body boards, as well as three commercial boards, not as "an insider" but for her expertise and leadership qualities.



Defending her role on the board of the ICS building society, which offered 100pc mortgages along with other lenders during the lead-up to the property and economic crash, Ms Davis said any decisions at that level were made collectively.



"Those were the times that we were in then," she added.



Ms Davis said if elected president, she would ask citizens what she should do in the role, publish an annual report on her activities and spending and introduce a citizen's award to honour those for outstanding service to Irish life.



She would also push for the office to be opened up to freedom of information legislation and convene regional conventions to give a voice to the country`s marginalised and vulnerable.



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