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Sunday 18 February 2018

Party whips to consider Mick Wallace motion of censure

Mick Wallace

Lyndsey Telford

PARTY whips have held off on passing a motion to formally condemn tax-dodging TD Mick Wallace for fear it could prejudice any legal cases against him.

As the Wexford Independent's former construction business was officially named on the Revenue Commissioner's defaulters list, the whips confirmed they will wait for an Oireachtas ethics watchdog to decide how to handle the situation.



The Members' Interests Committee will meet tomorrow and seek legal advice on whether to investigate Mr Wallace.



The Independent TD has come under fire over the last week after admitting he under-declared VAT returns and had come to a €2.1m settlement with Revenue Commissioners.

The whips will then take a decision on whether to pursue with a motion of censure.



Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Government would "stand ready" to issue an all-party motion should that decision be taken.



Deputy Government whip Emmett Stagg said it was important that members of the Dail do not have the power to instantly force a TD from his seat.



"It's very important that the Dail majority do not have the right to throw out members because they could then throw them out for all sorts of reasons," said the Labour chief whip.



"If you had a TD who had always been in repute for example, that power should not be there to Dail members for a reason."



He said the meeting of the five whips - from Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail and the Technical Group - decided to adopt the position of Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett who last week called on the Members' Interests Committee to investigate Mr Wallace.



Mr Wallace was back in the Dail for Leader's Questions dressed in his trademark print shirt after cancelling plans to attend Ireland's Euro 2012 matches in Poland.

"The issue of a motion of censure in the house has been discussed on a preliminary basis," Mr Stagg said.



"A very firm decision was agreed by all parties that nothing will be done in that regard that will cause any prejudicing of any possible legal action arising from this whole affair."



He said while Revenue has taken no legal action against Mr Wallace, a member of the public or the DPP could report the issue to the gardai in which case "something very real" could happen.



He added that a motion of censure could potentially prejudice court proceedings.



If passed, such a motion is a rap on the knuckles and cannot force the TD to resign.



Michael Lowry was the last politician to face the cross-party Dail motion formally reprimanding him and urging him to step down over the damning findings of the Moriarty Tribunal, but he refused to quit.



Mr Wallace last week admitted his company - MJ Wallace Ltd - had agreed a settlement with Revenue after he knowingly misled tax chiefs on how much VAT he owed.



The property developer turned politician has maintained he is not personally liable for the money and that since the business is insolvent, the funds will not be repaid to the authorities.



A Revenue spokeswoman said: "Normal Revenue enforcement procedures can be applied in respect of any assets not covered by a receivership."



Procedures can include referring a case to a sheriff or solicitor.



Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said deceiving the taxman and remaining a member of the Dail were two issues that were "not tenable", while two Labour backbenchers and two Independent TDs have called for his resignation.



Elsewhere latest figures from Revenue revealed 2,369 Revenue audit and investigations, along with 5,142 other compliance interventions, were settled in the first three months of the year yielding more than €130m euro.

Of the 129 published cases - which totalled almost €30m - 62 exceeded €100,000, with 13 exceeding €500,000 and five exceeding €1m.



O'Shea Fishing Co Ltd, based in Killybegs, Co Donegal, made a settlement of almost €3.4m for under declaration of corporation tax, PAYE and PRSI, while Cavan-based gynaecologist Ahmed Hussain agreed to pay back almost €1.9m for under declaring income tax.





Irish Independent

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