'It's my fault and nobody else's' - FG deputy leader James Reilly apologises for failing to declare election expenses
*Provided 'incomplete documentation' on expenses *Among dozens of candidates referred to gardai
FINE Gael deputy leader James Reilly has apologised for failing to provide the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) with proof he returned an excessive political donation.
Mr Reilly was one of dozens of candidates who ran in the General Election referred to gardai by Sipo.
Failing to file expenses or filing incomplete documentation is an offence under strict standards in office legislation.
Mr Reilly received €1,000 in a cash donation, however, the maximum that candidates can receive in cash is €200.
Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, the Fine Gael deputy leader apologised and said the donation oversight was "my fault."
"I put my hand up, I forgot to give a receipt ... I declared the €1,000, realised the error when pointed out to me and handed €800 back", he expalined.
"It’s my fault and nobody else's. I don’t want to waste garda time, that’s for sure. I certainly can produce that receipt and in fairness to the gentleman concerned, I didn't even ask him for the receipt. I had meant to.
Mr Reilly said he knew something was wrong when he had nine missed calls on his phone this morning.
"I would prefer not to be having this conversation with you on the national airwaves but it is what it is.
"Politics costs money and that is why people support the process. I'm always very grateful to anybody who, regardless of the party that they support, that they are supporting democracy by donating to election campaigns.
"I would ask people to continue to do that. I think that is what keeps a democracy healthy."
Louis O’Connell – a Fine election agent for Brendan Griffin, Jimmy Deenihan and Grace O’Donnell – were also referred to gardaí.
Independent Alliance candidate Carol Hunt, who is now Transport Minister Shane Ross’s spokeswoman, was also referred, as was former Social Democrats senator James Heffernan.
Sipo sent 66 files to Garda Headquarters concerning candidates who had failed to return the required documentation.
More than €5.6m was spent by political parties and independent candidates on election spending. Fine Gael was the highest spending party with €2.7m spent on the election, followed by Fianna Fail with a €1.6m bill. Sinn Féin spent €650,190 and the Labour Party spent more than €1m.
Fine Gael spent a €440,480 on advertising during the campaign and the Labour Party’s bill was €212,705 while Fianna Fáil spent just €27,393.