Wednesday 20 September 2017

Fine Gael boss says donations controversy 'embarrassing'

Tom Curran, Fine Gael's general secretary Picture: Tom Burke
Tom Curran, Fine Gael's general secretary Picture: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Fine Gael General Secretary Tom Curran has told his TDs and senators that the recent controversy surrounding election donations proved “embarrassing” for the party.

Without singling out at member by name, Mr Curran told a Fine Gael meeting on Wednesday that such controversies must not dog the party again in the future.

Earlier this month, it emerged the party's deputy leader James Reilly is among 66 general election candidates to be referred to the gardaí by the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO).

Dr Reilly, the former Health and Children’s Minister, accepted a €1,000 cash donation but failed to properly file returns.

“I apologise. It is nobody else’s fault but myself,” Dr Reilly said earlier this month.

“I put my hands up. I forgot to give a receipt,” he added.

The senator was not present at the meeting of the parliamentary in Leinster House when the issue was raised.

Mr Curran also revealed that the membership fee for Fine Gael is increasing from €15-€20. He said this is not a reflection on the party being in a poor state financially.

He also revealed that Fine Gael is axing a special rate for the “unwaged”, who previously secured a discounted membership.

TDs and senators were also told that they avail of special slide up advertisements promoting themselves at party events at a cost of €90 each.

During the meeting, Fine Gael senator Neale Richmond criticised the delay it has taken to appoint a number of figures to party positions.

Later on during the meeting, the issue of speaking time for backbenchers was raised.

Wexford deputy Michael D’Arcy said backbenchers are not afforded enough opportunities - however Chief Whip Regina Doherty claimed that the time is available but TDs are not using it.

The Taoiseach spoke for a number of minutes about the issues of Brexit and Rural Ireland.

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