Sunday 21 January 2018

Pressure on tax-dodging TD Mick Wallace to resign

Lyndsey Telford

PRESSURE mounted on tax-dodging TD Mick Wallace to quit politics tonight after two Labour backbenchers called for his resignation.

Dail chairman Sean Barrett also requested an ethics investigation after the Independent deputy admitted he lied to the taxman by under-declaring his VAT by €1.4m.

The Ceann Comhairle wrote to the Members' Interests Committee calling for its examination of the "grave issues" raised by Mr Wallace.

"The Members' Interests Committee would appear to have a role in the legal framework provided under the Ethics in Public Office legislation to conduct an investigation as required," he added.

Mr Wallace has admitted he was wrong when his building company, MJ Wallace Ltd, knowingly under-declared around €1.4m in VAT, which, with interest and penalties piled on, rose to some €2.1m.

But Mr Wallace maintained he is still fit to serve in the Dail.

The Independent TD insisted he is not personally liable to make the payment as it is company debt, adding the bill may never be settled as the firm is now insolvent.

He receives more than €130,000 a year in his TD pay and perks, and revealed he still plans to go to Poland this weekend to see Ireland's matches in Euro 2012.

Labour TDs Aodhan O Riordain and Robert Dowds called on the colourful Independent to quit his Dail seat.

"Nobody can force Mick Wallace to resign. I actually think he should resign," said Mr O Riordain.

"His position in the Dail is inconsistent with the manner in which his tax affairs were handled. I think there's a huge inconsistency there."

Speaking to Newstalk, he added: "For them (the public) to see somebody in the Dail who is equivocating over the fact that he falsified information to the Revenue Commissioners is a bit hard to take."

Mr Dowds said Mr Wallace should "do the right thing" and resign his seat, and criticised the Technical Group - of which Mr Wallace is a member - for failing to hold him to account.

The group of Independent and left-wing TDs jointly said they believe Mr Wallace's actions were wrong but maintained they are not in a position to expel him.

Socialist Party TD Clare Daly defended her Independent colleague, saying she believed the information he gave about his tax affairs is correct, so he is fit to serve in the Dail.

"Deputy Wallace made a wrong decision and went and brought that in an up-front manner to the attention of the tax authorities," she added.

However, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said the incident had further tarnished the image of politicians.

"For the vast majority of politicians who are honest, people who obey the law and pay their taxes, it's very hard to see other people in our parliament who break the law and don't pay their taxes, and encourage other people not to pay their taxes. Deputy Wallace is one of those," said Mr Varadkar.

Fianna Fail whip Sean O Fearghail and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan have also said Mr Wallace should be held accountable for his actions.

Elsewhere, a 10-minute poll on a radio show found less than a quarter of the public wanted Mr Wallace to stay in his position.

More than 15,000 calls were made to RTE's Liveline, with 77pc believing he should resign.

Others have also criticised how Mr Wallace came to an agreement with Revenue when Dublin businessman Paul Begley was jailed for six years in March for not paying €1.6m in customs duty on imported garlic - an amount he later repaid.

Mr Wallace, who won his seat in Wexford in 2011 with more than 13,000 first-preference votes, attributed his company's problems to the economic crisis, which had become too much for his business in 2008 and 2009.

He has claimed he was trying to save his apartment sales company and the jobs of the 60 people working for him.

Meanwhile, Independent TD Finian McGrath, who sits on the Technical Group, welcomed the Ceann Comhairle's calls for an ethics investigation.

The Dublin North Central deputy said Mr Wallace was wrong for "fiddling" his VAT figures and that he should make an effort to pay back the tax.

"This issue can be resolved by common sense and we all have a civic duty to the citizens of this state," Mr McGrath added.

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