Friday 24 November 2017

Taoiseach defends decision to clear Mitchell

Fionnan Sheahan, Lise Hand and Majella O'Sullivan

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny yesterday stood by his party's decision to clear Olivia Mitchell despite the Mahon tribunal finding she got an "inappropriate" payment from a developer.

Fine Gael cabinet ministers said they were "delighted" for the TD after a party disciplinary committee exonerated her.

But Ms Mitchell's friend, Cllr Theresa Ridge, has lost the party whip and faces possible expulsion from the party if she doesn't abide by the punishment.

Mr Kenny said he was happy with the findings of the disciplinary committee.

"Yes, I accept the result and the decision made by the internal disciplinary committee.

"I'm glad they made a decisive and very clear decision in respect of the two persons concerned and I accept their report," he added.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said the internal inquiry had conducted a "detailed evaluation" of the evidence as part of an investigative process.

He said he was "delighted" for Ms Mitchell with the finding.

Dr James Reilly expressed similar sentiments.

"I'm delighted for her that she has been cleared.

"I think she's an excellent TD with an extraordinarily long service, and a woman of tremendous integrity," he said.

The Planning Tribunal found it was "inappropriate" for Ms Mitchell, then a councillor, to have received a donation in 1992 of IR£500 from disgraced former government press secretary Frank Dunlop.

But the Fine Gael disciplinary committee found while it was "inappropriate in light of what we now know" for Ms Mitchell to accept the donation, "her actions have not brought the party into disrepute".

"She is exonerated of any complaint, and remains a member of the party, in high standing," the party said last night.

Rewarded

The Mahon report also found Ms Ridge received an "inappropriate" IR£1,000 payment from Mr Dunlop, that she supported the Quarryvale project, and was "handsomely rewarded" for her efforts.

But in Ms Ridge's case, the investigation committee found it was "injudicious and unwise" for her to have accepted the donation.

"Furthermore, the committee found that Cllr Ridge's relationship with Frank Dunlop severely compromised her role as a public representative.

"Failure to declare an interest and abstention on votes was also wholly inappropriate and damaging to the interests of Fine Gael," the party said.

As punishment, the Fine Gael whip has been removed from Ms Ridge.

Irish Independent

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