independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Mick Wallace back in Technical Group as McGrath booted off Oireachtas committees

Deputies Mick Wallace and  Clare Daly   at Leinster House yesterday. Picture: Tom Burke
Deputies Mick Wallace and Clare Daly at Leinster House yesterday. Picture: Tom Burke

TAX cheat Mick Wallace is back in favour with the Dail Technical Group after his fellow Independents appointed him to an Oireachtas committee.

The move comes less than two years after the group tried to kick him out following the revelations of his €2.1m tax settlement.

Mr Wallace has replaced Independent TD Mattie McGrath on the Dail communications committee.

Mr McGrath has been booted off by the Technical Group after he stopped paying its €260-a-month membership fee, which pays for the group's staff member and administration.

The Tipperary politician has linked his expulsion to his intention to attend the Reform Alliance's meeting this weekend.

"This is punishment before the meeting," said Mr McGrath, adding: "It's obviously my views regarding pro-life became anathema to a lot of them and they didn't want me."

He was also removed from the Dail Health Committee, to be replaced by Clare Daly.

Mr McGrath pointed to Ms Daly's pro-choice stance, saying it would be more in tune with some of the other members of the group.

He said the group had tried to remove Mr Wallace less than two years ago.

"He wasn't fit to be a part of the group and on committees two years ago. Now he's fine. It's an amazing turnaround," he said. "When Mick wasn't fit then, how is he fit now?"

Following the revelations of Mr Wallace's tax affairs in the summer of 2012, the Technical Group was embroiled in a row over his membership.

COMMITTEES

Independent TDs insisted that they wanted him kicked out, that he had resigned, then he did resign and eventually they discovered that they couldn't exclude him from the group.

Finian McGrath, who chairs the Technical Group, said Mattie McGrath's removal from the committees was not related to his stance on abortion or the Reform Alliance.

"It has nothing to do with that," he said.

Finian McGrath said members of the group were entitled to adopt any policy positions they wanted but Mattie McGrath was no longer paying for the services provided by membership of the group.

He said that a majority of members of the group decided to appoint Mr Wallace, despite his tax status.

"Mick is a member of the group. He has made efforts to resolve those matters," said Finian McGrath.

The Revenue Commissioners listed Mr Wallace as a tax defaulter in June 2012.

His company was included on the list for under-declaration of VAT, which, including interest and penalties totalled €2,133,708.

Mr Wallace escaped prosecution and kept his Dail seat, despite admitting that he had knowingly fiddled his company's VAT returns.

He pledged to devote half of his Dail salary to meeting his construction company's settlement with Revenue.

Mattie McGrath said his own expulsion from the committees was unexpected.

He added: "This came out of the blue altogether. When I left Fianna Fail, they left me on the committees."

Fionnan Sheahan, Group Political Editor

Irish Independent

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