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I did nothing wrong – TD in wife-travel expenses row

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John McGuinness

John McGuinness

Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny

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John McGuinness

FIANNA Fail politician John McGuinness is set for a battle to retain his job as head of the Public Accounts Committee, telling the Herald: "I did nothing wrong."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny last night waded into the row over the embattled chief of the Dail's spending watchdog.

Mr McGuinness is facing calls to quit as chairman of the powerful Public Accounts Committee after being plunged into controversy over foreign travel.

The Carlow/Kilkenny TD has been strongly criticised after he claimed that the spouses of Government ministers should sometimes be allowed to travel abroad at taxpayers' expense.

It emerged yesterday that Mr McGuinness argued that his wife Margaret should be allowed join him on a number of trade missions while he a junior minister in the Department of Enterprise in 2007.

The former junior minister claimed in correspondence that he was "entitled to some comforts on State business".

"I believe there is a strong case to be made for the State paying," he wrote.

However Mr McGuinness was shot down by civil servants, with one describing his request as "inappropriate".

As the row deepened the Taoiseach called on the TD to reflect on his position.

 

Arrogance

Speaking in Rome, Mr Kenny said the issue should be dealt with by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.

"It smacks of traces of the abuse and arrogance that we inherited after 14 years of mismanagement," he said.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has said the credibility of McGuinness is at issue.

"He spent a long time, a number of years now, giving out about wasteful expenditure and that is why he was appointed the chairman of the PAC," Mr Varadkar said on RTE today.

"The revelations in recent weeks do certainly raise credibility questions for him. I think his credibility is at issue," he added.

He said the issue of Mr McGuinness resigning from the PAC was for the committee and Mr Martin to consider.

"He has the right at least to account for himself before the PAC and give his version of events," Mr Varadkar added.

However, Mr McGuiness last night said that he did "nothing wrong" and insisted that he "always intended" to pay his wife's travel costs.

"I asked a question and I expected to get an answer. In a democratic society, what's wrong with that?

"I have nothing to resign over. My wife didn't travel and I always expected to pay."

noconnor@herald.ie


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