Sunday 25 June 2017

Reilly apologises after ethics watchdog refers election expenses to gardaí for investigation

James Reilly at the count centre in Cloghran, Dublin, during the election. Photo: Stephen Collins
James Reilly at the count centre in Cloghran, Dublin, during the election. Photo: Stephen Collins
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

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's failure to provide Sipo with the correct documentation for the returned donation resulted in the ethics watchdog forwarding a file on the former health minister to gardaí.

Mr Reilly mistakenly believed he could receive a €1,000 cash donation from a supporter, but the rules stipulate politicians can only receive €200 in cash from an individual. However, non-cash donations of €1,000 are permitted.

The Fine Gael senator said he returned €800 to the political donor but did not get an appropriate receipt to prove it. Mr Reilly said he would get a receipt and send it to Sipo.

"I would certainly apologise because it is my fault and nobody else's," Mr Reilly said on RTÉ Radio One. "Nobody wants to be embarrassed or cause people needless work. I suppose if there is an upside it's that Sipo is clearly doing its job," he said.

Mr Reilly was among 66 candidates who ran in the General Election referred to gardaí by Sipo. Mr Reilly yesterday provided Sipo with a receipt for the returned donation.

Louis O'Connell - a Fine Gael election agent in Kerry for Brendan Griffin, Jimmy Deenihan and Grace O'Donnell - was also referred.

It is understood confusions arose surrounding expenses filed for election posters but the issue has since been rectified by the Fine Gael organisation in Kerry.

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. Failing to file expenses or filing incomplete documentation is an offence under strict standards in office legislation.

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 the election.

Fine Gael was the highest spending party with €2.7m.

Irish Independent

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