Sunday 17 December 2017

Growing pressure for PAC chairman John McGuinness to resign after expenses row

Fianna Fail deputy John McGuinness with his wife Margaret
Fianna Fail deputy John McGuinness with his wife Margaret

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

THE embattled chairman of the Dail public spending watchdog has come under further pressure with calls for him to resign from his position.

Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), is under fire for claiming a case can be made for the taxpayer to pay for ministers to take their spouses abroad while on official travel.

Public Transport Minister Alan Kelly said Mr McGuinness' position is "questionable" and "should be considered".

He told Newstalk Mr McGuinness was not "practising what he preaches" as chairman of the Dail spending watchdog.

Earlier on Morning Ireland Mr Kelly called Mr McGuinness' comments "bizarre" and said he is "not aware" of incidents when ministerial spouses or partners would travel, and have it paid for by the taxpayer.

Independent TD Finian McGrath has called on Mr McGuinness to resign, saying: "I just don't think it's acceptable."

His fellow Independent Shane Ross - a member of the PAC - said "no spouses should be paid for by the taxpayer on any trips abroad".

But Mr Ross , who fought Mr McGuinness for chairmanship of the PAC, declined to call on Mr McGuinness to step down.

"At the moment, I don't know enough about the subject," the Dublin South TD said at the launch of a Save the Seanad campaign by some Independent deputies.

Mr McGuinness said a minister could make a case on family, personal or health grounds for the State to pay wives to travel.The Irish Independent revealed he tried to bring his wife with him on foreign trips while he was a junior minister. 

Mr McGuinness' wife eventually did not travel with him on trips to Dubai and Canada when he was minister for trade, and the Fianna Fail Carlow-Kilkenny TD said it was always his intention to pay for her.

However, in an email to civil servants at the time - late 2007 - he argued that the taxpayer should foot the bill for ministerial spouses to travel.

A member of the PAC, Fine Gael TD Simon Harris, has already said the committee's credibility cannot be undermined.

Mr Harris this morning said the PAC "has a huge and important body of work to do".

"The credibility of the committee cannot be undermined and the chairman needs to consider that," Mr Harris said.

Mr McGuinness said his wife Margaret, did travel with him on a St Patrick's Day trip and this was paid for by the State.

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