THE controversial claim by an associate of former Taoisigh Charles Haughey and Bertie Ahern to be a "lifelong member" of Fine Gael has been backed up by an esteemed former party TD.
Fine Gael said it has no record of respected accountant Des Peelo, a former chairman of the Central Remedial Clinic, being a party member.
But NUI Chancellor Maurice Manning, a former Fine Gael TD and senator, told the Irish Independent that Mr Peelo was a "committed supporter" during his time in the party. In his time in politics, Mr Manning ran in the Dublin North-East constituency, where Mr Peelo lives.
"I'm not sure he was ever actually a branch member. He was a great supporter. He put posters up in his front garden and he held coffee mornings. He was extremely helpful.
"I don't know about party records," he said. "He was a supporter, but a committed supporter, not a party activist."
Having a party grandee like Mr Manning, a friend of the Taoiseach, saying he was a Fine Gael supporter supports Mr Peelo's case -- even if he wasn't a formal member.
Between the Dail and the Seanad, Mr Manning was an Oireachtas member for 21 years and a respected party member.
He ran as a Fine Gael candidate in five general elections in the 1980s, winning a seat on two occasions.
"In every one of those elections he (Mr Peelo) was actively involved. He put the large Fine Gael posters in his garden.
"I don't think he was ever a regular member. He was one of those people who didn't bother with meetings," he said.
A Fine Gael spokesman told the Irish Independent it has no record of Mr Peelo being a member on its electronic database, which dates back to 1993.
Fine Gael members in the constituency have no recollection of him being a member of the party. But a long-standing party figure did remember Mr Manning saying in the early 1980s that Mr Peelo was a Fine Gael supporter.
In an interview on RTE's 'Today with Sean O'Rourke' earlier this week, Mr Peelo said: "And, by the way, just to lighten the moment, Shane Ross has included me as some Fianna Fail cabal because of my obvious friendships with Bertie Ahern and Charlie Haughey. Just speaking personally to get my dig in back at him, I have been a lifelong member of Fine Gael."