Tuesday 16 January 2018

‘Ministers should be allowed take spouses on foreign trips’ – McGuinness

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

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

THE chairman of the Dail public spending watchdog claims there is a case to be made the taxpayer to pay for ministers to take their spouses abroad while on official travel.

John McGuinness, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said  a minister could make a case on family or health grounds for the State to pay wives to travel.

He was speaking on RTE's 'Morning Ireland' after 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.

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

Also speaking on Morning Ireland, current Junior Transport Minister Alan 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.

Fine Gael TD Simon Harris, a current member of the PAC, this morning said the committee “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.

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