Friday 22 September 2017

Watchdog lashes TDs over their links to business

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

A JUNIOR minister and one of Fine Gael's rising stars are among of a raft of TDs who did not declare company directorships to the Dail watchdog, the Irish Independent has learned.

Over 30 TDs did not submit fully completed declarations to the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) earlier this year, prompting a letter this week telling them to comply.

The letter came from the Dail Committee on Members' Interests on Thursday night.

TDs must declare all company directorships, as well as ownership of a business -- or part of one -- valued at over €13,000 held at any stage during the previous year.

Although the vast majority of undeclared directorships are for voluntary community organisations, Meath East Fine Gael TD Regina Doherty didn't declare a company she ran with her husband, Declan.

Ms Doherty was picked by the Fine Gael hierarchy to introduce Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the party's recent ard fheis.

The company not included in her declaration -- Enhance Solutions Limited -- specialised in "software consultancy and supply". It is in liquidation.

Ms Doherty last night admitted her error, and said she asked that her records be corrected.

"I wrote to SIPO this week asking that it be included," Ms Doherty told the Irish Independent last night.

"It's in liquidation, it hasn't traded since 2009, there is no-one taking a wage from it, but that doesn't excuse not putting it in and I wrote to SIPO this week to do that."

Ms Doherty did declare a directorship in her firm, Doherty Media Ltd, which is still trading but left out her directorship of a local gaelscoil, which is a voluntary organisation.

Over 30 TDs did the same, and left out directorships from community and non-profit organisations. The confusion mainly arose from TDs elected to the Dail at last year's general election having previously served as county councillors. As councillors, some sat on various boards but had to resign once they became TDs.

Mr Butler said he corrected the mistake this week, and called the system "very confusing". But long-serving TDs also made the same mistake.

John Perry, the junior minister in charge of small and medium enterprises, also omitted his membership of the Ballymote Community Enterprise Board.

Confusion

"The genuine omission which was made without any pre-meditated or sinister reason, has now been corrected with the Clerk of Dail Eireann's office," Mr Perry said.

"I have in recent years divested from all of my business interests due to my political commitments. I do not take any personal income from my businesses."

Wicklow TD Andrew Doyle has been a member of the Dail since 2007, but didn't know he had to declare his board membership of bodies such as the Roundwood Community Pre-School.

"When I first joined I asked if I had to declare them and I was told I didn't," Mr Doyle said. "It's a very confusing system."

However, the TDs mistakenly thought they didn't have to declare them.

Donegal South West TD Thomas Pringle, the chair of the Member's Interest Committee, wrote to them this week to clear up the confusion.

"Some people might have thought they didn't have to declare it so we wrote to them to clear it up," Mr Pringle said.

Irish Independent

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