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Tuesday 12 December 2017

'It was a different country then' - John McGuinness defends expenses

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

PUBLIC Accounts Committee chairman John McGuinness says he was "challenging old ways" by saying the State should pay for ministerial spouses to travel abroad in some cases.

Mr McGuinness is facing questions this morning from TDs on the committee about the recent controversies surrounding him.

The Carlow-Kilkenny TD said: "I was challenging old ways", adding that the incident was six years ago, and it was a "different country" then.

He said a case could be made for the taxpayer paying in "exceptional" circumstances, but said it should not happen "willy-nilly".

But he added: "Do I hold that opinion today? No I don't."

Vice chairman Kieran O Donnell said the integrity of the PAC is at stake, and said the committee is bigger than one person.

He also said  he can't remember the details of a State funded ministerial trip to London on which he took his wife. 

Mr McGuinness said his wife accompanied him on three trips paid for from the public purse, a St Patrick's Day trip to Seattle, another St Patrick's Day trip to Scotland and a separate trip to London.

However, when pressed by the PAC members, he said he could not remember the the details of the trip.

He also rejected comparisons made by Fine Gael TD Simon Harris between him and former FAS chairman Rody Molloy, saying they were like "chalk and cheese".

And he also rejected a claim from Independent TD Shane Ross that the "McGuinness family seem to have done particularly well"  from his time as minister, given the overtime paid to his son Andrew and the trip his wife, Margaret, accompanied him on.

Mr McGuinness said he would revert to the committee with details on the London trip.

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