TAX cheat TD Mick Wallace's left-wing colleagues in the Dail technical group last night stood by the property developer and declined to call for his resignation.
But several of the group's normally outspoken members went silent after the developer admitted he had deliberately made a false tax statement to the Revenue and won't be paying the €2m tax bill.
Only six members of the 16-strong group would comment on the controversy to the Irish Independent yesterday, and none said Mr Wallace should step down as a TD.
The group came under pressure from the Government and opposition parties alike for their alignment to Mr Wallace.
In particular, prominent members such as Joe Higgins and Richard Boyd Barrett were pressed on whether they were going to continue to co-operate with Mr Wallace and retain him in their group.
The furore caused a rift over whether the 16 TDs should issue a collective statement criticising Mr Wallace for his actions.
A view was being expressed by some members that the group needed to be stronger in their condemnation of his behaviour.
"A lot of us get elected on honesty and integrity, so it's not good for us," a source said.
Last evening, the Independent TDs in the group finally issued a statement.
"In response to media queries about Mick Wallace TD we would like to make it clear that we do not condone his behaviour, we believe he has done wrong and that he should be equally accountable as any other TD or ordinary Irish citizen.
"Anyone who is not aligned to a party is automatically entitled to membership of the technical group under the rules of the Dail," it said.
At a hastily convened lunchtime meeting yesterday, Mr Wallace explained his position to his colleagues and they decided no action could be taken as they are not a party.
However, Mattie McGrath and Finian McGrath criticised Mr Wallace and expressed their anger and disappointment.
A government backbencher said the Dail deserved an explanation from the "tax evader".
Labour's Eric Byrne said: "I always found it curious that the likes of Joan Collins, Clare Daly, Joe Higgins and Richard Boyd Barrett thought nothing of cosying up to a property developer in the Dail, but the fact that Deputy Wallace is now a self-confessed tax cheat must give them real cause to shift uncomfortably in their seats," he said.
Mr Byrne said not even Fianna Fail "at the height of their pomp" tolerated their members flouting tax laws as both Denis Foley and Michael Collins were forced to resign on tax evasion issues.