FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan yesterday increased the pressure on Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell over a IR£500 payment she received from disgraced lobbyist Frank Dunlop.
The Irish Independent has revealed that there is a split in Fine Gael about how to deal with the findings of the Mahon Tribunal in relation to the Dublin South TD, with some members demanding disciplinary action and others far more sympathetic due to her committed service as a TD
The tribunal found that Ms Mitchell's acceptance of the donation 20 years ago from Mr Dunlop was "inappropriate" because she knew he was lobbying for the rezoning of land in Quarryvale, west Dublin, at the time. He later served a jail sentence for corruption.
Speaking yesterday in Limerick, Mr Noonan said the principle of the issue had to be addressed despite the size of the donation.
"It seems to me that the amount of money involved is very small. Obviously there is a principle involved and the principle is being addressed," he said.
One Fine Gael TD said yesterday that party colleagues calling for Ms Mitchell to be sanctioned should remember that "people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones".
The TD said that all politicians took donations from people during election campaigns and could not honestly say with complete certainty what the backgrounds of the donors were.
"Olivia is a damn fine representative for the people of Dublin South. She was on the wrong side of the heave against Enda and will never be advancing but she's still enthusiastic," the TD said.
The Mahon Tribunal found that Ms Mitchell also received two separate payments of IR£400 and IR£1,000 from Mr Dunlop on behalf of Monarch Properties. The money was given more than three years after Ms Mitchell voted to increase the number of houses per acre that Monarch could build on its Cherrywood lands.
She initially voted in 1992 to restrict the development to just one house per acre but the following year she voted in favour of allowing the company build four houses per acre.
The Fine Gael internal inquiry is being conducted by three members of the Fine Gael national executive. One option that has been discussed is for Ms Mitchell to resign voluntarily from the party and then return after six or 12 months.