Saturday 23 September 2017

Wallace plans to address Dail on Tuesday

Clare Daly sits with Mick Wallace in the Dail yesterday.
Clare Daly and Mick Wallace

Breda Heffernan, Barry Duggan and Fionnan Sheahan

Independent TD Mick Wallace is hoping to make a personal address to the Dail on Tuesday afternoon on his company’s under-declaration of VAT payments.

In a statement issued this afternoon, the Wexford deputy said it is his intention to clarify his position on his taxation issues and how he proposes to continue to serve his constituents.



He said he would be writing to the ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett on Monday seeking permission to address the Dail the following day.



Mr Wallace's Dail group last night broke ranks and called for him to resign, as the Wexford TD came under intense pressure to quit.

In contrast to the rest of his colleagues in the Dail Technical Group, Independent TD John Halligan said he would tell Mr Wallace to go when he meets him next.

Mr Wallace is heading off to Poland for Euro 2012, despite the huge backlash against his false declaration of VAT and an unpaid €2.1m tax bill.

The football-loving deputy, on a salary of €92,000, will be missing from three days of Dail sittings next week as he attends the sporting extravaganza.

But he faces a Dail inquiry after Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett told a watchdog committee to look into the matter.

Mr Barrett specifically referred to the implications of Mr Wallace's actions "for democracy and the standing of the Dail and the members".

But the most significant development yesterday came when John Halligan broke ranks and cracks began to emerge in support for Mr Wallace among the Technical Group.

Mr Halligan told the Irish Independent he wanted to meet Mr Wallace as soon as possible -- even though the beleaguered TD is in Poland -- and would tell him to step down.

He continued: "I'm going to meet him and my inclination is that he should resign. Too many TDs have been involved in the past with this -- people won't take it any more.

"My plan is to meet him next week, if he's in Ireland, and I'll be advising him to resign."

But Mr Wallace's close friend, Socialist Party TD Clare Daly, stood by the TD, saying she felt he was "fit for office". She claimed that he had been "up front" with tax authorities after making a "wrong decision".

Her party colleague Joe Higgins also refused to call for his colleague's resignation.

Many of the other TDs in the Dail Technical Group have gone uncharacteristically silent on the whole affair. But several TDs in the major parties rounded on Mr Wallace and said his position was now untenable.

Labour backbenchers Eamon Moloney, Robert Dowds and Aodhan O Riordain have directly called for him to resign.

Fianna Fail chief whip Sean O Fearghail and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan also said Mr Wallace should be held accountable for his actions.

And the Ceann Comhairle wrote to the Committee on Members' Interests for Dail Eireann, asking them to investigate.

Credibility

The committee is chaired by Independent TD Thomas Pringle, who is a colleague of Mr Wallace in the Dail Technical Group.

The committee has the power to recommend that a TD be officially censured and suspended for up to a month.

But two separate sources familiar with ethics legislation said the law only applied to actions taken while a TD was a member of the Dail.

Mr Wallace's false declaration of his company's taxes dates back to 2008 and 2009. He was only elected as a TD last year.

Mr Wallace maintains that he is still fit to serve in the Dail.

The Wexford TD said he has a tax-clearance certificate because his personal status is different to that of his company.

He said he was not personally liable to make the multi million-euro payment to the Revenue as this was company debt, adding that the bill may never be settled as the firm is now insolvent.

But a 10-minute poll on a radio show found that less than a quarter of the public wanted Mr Wallace to stay as a TD.

More than 15,000 calls were made to RTE's 'Liveline', with 77pc believing he should resign.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan said Mr Wallace's non-payment of VAT was serious and that he would have "little enough credibility" with voters as a result. He added: "It is a matter really for the Revenue Commissioners and the relevant committee in the Dail."

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said the incident had further tarnished the image of politicians.

He added: "For the vast majority of politicians who are honest people who obey the law and pay their taxes, it's very hard to see other people in our parliament who break the law and don't pay their taxes, and encourage other people not to pay their taxes. Deputy Wallace is one of those."

Irish Independent

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