THE wife of Labour chairman Colm Keaveney has been on the state payroll since July 2011, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
After it emerged that he had employed his wife as his personal assistant, Mr Keaveney had stated that his wife, Deirdre, was "temporarily filling in" full time as his parliamentary assistant since September 1."
But this weekend Deirdre Keaveney confirmed that she has been working on a job share basis for her husband for a year and a half.
When asked why this was not previously disclosed, a spokesperson for the Labour chairman said: "It just didn't come up."
Meanwhile, in an interview yesterday, Mrs Keaveney said that neither she nor her husband attempted to cover up the length of time she has been working for her spouse.
"I have answered every single question that I have been asked accurately. I have never made any secret of the fact that I have been working in the office since the previous person [went on sick leave]."
Mrs Keaveney also stated that she was "actively encouraged" to take up the position by the Labour Party.
"There is no Labour policy about this. In fact I was actively encouraged by the [Labour Party] through Colm.
"In fact [a member] of the Labour Party said to me, 'We all thought that was the plan' when we spoke about taking up a job. They were his exact words."
Speaking about the public perception of her role she said: "People have a mental image of a wink and a nod in politics when it comes to wives and family members but that's not the case."
She added: "I have the experience and qualifications, which are relevant for the job."
In a statement to the Sunday Independent this weekend, a spokesperson for Mr Keaveney said: "By any ordinary and reasonable understanding of the press release sent to the Irish Times and the Irish Independent yesterday it is clear that Mrs Keaveney had been working for Colm, on a job-share basis with Cllr Johnny Walsh, prior to her taking on the position in a full-time capacity in the recent weeks."
"Deputy Keaveney has publicly stated, prior to today, that Deirdre Keaveney was employed in his office prior to taking up a full-time post in September and has not concealed, nor sought to conceal, that information, openly available under 'Freedom of Information', from any body or person. He has at all times been open and honest in regard to this matter.
"Any implication by any publication that states contrary to the above, or makes any implied statement that Deputy Keaveney attempted to conceal such information, will be deemed an injury to Deputy Keaveney's good name and character. Any action deemed necessary to make good any such injury will most certainly be pursued on Deputy Keaveney's behalf.
"Deputy Keaveney is happy to cooperate with the press in this or any other matter of public interest and has always done so. He went on: "The Sunday Independent was the first publication to request Mrs Keaveney's first date of employment and was provided with the information within a matter of hours, again demonstrating the Keaveneys' willingness and openness to cooperate with the press in this or any other matter of public interest.
"All hiring decisions taken with regard to members of staff in Deputy Keaveney's office were taken with the full oversight of the Labour Party Head Office and the General Secretary of the Labour Party, Ita McAuliffe.
"At no point did the Labour Party, or the General Secretary of the Labour Party, raise any objections to Mrs Keaveney being hired for the position. Indeed, both the General Secretary and a former senior staff member of the party, George Cummins, both encouraged Mrs Keaveney to apply for the post and Ms McAuliffe aided Mrs Keaveney through the application process."
In recent days Mr Keaveney stated: "The position will be advertised in due course but starting someone new at the beginning of a very busy Dail session was not judged by me to be prudent.
"Deirdre is temporarily filling in on a full-time basis and has been doing so since the 1st of September just gone by.
"It has always been my intention to hire another person into the role and the vacancy will be filled as soon as possible," he said.
Mrs Keaveney had been appointed to the post without competition at a salary of €41,000. Ballinasloe-based councillor Johnny Walsh finished in the job this month.
In his statement Mr Keaveney said: "My previous parliamentary assistant, Cllr Johnny Walsh, finished up, by mutual consent, at the end of August. Deirdre had been job-sharing the post with Cllr Walsh.
"This arrangement changed as a consequence of the recent constituency boundary review which took Ballinasloe out of my constituency. Cllr Walsh and myself remain on excellent terms," he said.
When asked about the post earlier this week, Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn said: "We haven't lost the run of ourselves -- the Labour Party advised newly elected deputies and current deputies who were re-elected to avoid employing family members."
Asked if Mrs Keaveney should stand down from the position, Mr Quinn replied: "That's a matter for Colm Keaveney and the party leadership."