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Sunday 25 March 2018

Dail group split in Wallace row

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

The controversy over Mick Wallace last night descended into farce amid confusion over whether he had actually resigned from the Dail Technical Group.

After a bitter split emerged over the status of his apparent resignation, a delegation is being sent to Mr Wallace to ask him to confirm his resignation from the group in writing. The group of Independent and small party TDs was in turmoil as an emergency meeting was held in Leinster House last night, with the very future of the group possibly in doubt.

The move came as a Dail committee probing Mr Wallace's tax affairs is due to meet again this morning.

Although the Independent TD announced he was leaving the Dail Technical Group last week in the wake of the public backlash over his €2.1m unpaid VAT bill, his status has once again come into question.

A row broke out in the group over a proposal to remove his membership of an Oireachtas committee.

Several sources told the Irish Independent that his close friend, Socialist Party TD Clare Daly, claimed he had only temporarily left the group and would be returning.

Ms Daly's claim caused consternation among her colleagues in the group and an emergency meeting of just the Independent members was arranged at 8.15 last night.

Several members of the group, including Finian McGrath, Catherine Murphy, Mattie McGrath, John Halligan and Thomas Pringle, are believed to be strongly pushing for Mr Wallace's membership to be definitively ended with no return in future, while Shane Ross was also adamant he had to go.

But not all the members of the group are in agreement.

It was decided at the meeting that Mr McGrath and Ms Murphy would ask Mr Wallace to sign a document saying he had definitively resigned, but there was some doubt over whether he would agree to this. As the group is not a party, it's not possible to expel a TD who wants to belong.

Independent members of the group last week requested that Mr Wallace "step back voluntarily from the group" as a result of last week's revelations and he agreed to do so.

Rather than leaving question marks over Mr Wallace's membership hanging, some members of the group were even talking about disbanding completely. "You can't exclude an Independent from joining the Technical Group, so you'd have to dissolve it if it comes to that and try to reconstitute it," one member of the group said.

"We're not taking him back into the Technical Group."

Meanwhile, the Dail Committee on Members Interests will meet this morning to consider whether to investigate Mr Wallace.

The Wexford TD is expected to provide correspondence to the committee in response to its queries on his tax settlement. The committee decided it had to find out if the tax settlement in any way occurred during Mr Wallace's time as a TD.

Irish Independent

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