THE Dail technical group is on the verge of collapse as TDs fight to block a return from tax-cheat Mick Wallace.
The Herald can reveal that a number of members were due to hold emergency talks today after it emerged Mr Wallace applied to rejoin.
The ex-builder contacted the group's Chief Whip Catherine Murphy last night but was told his return would cause "serious problems".
However Wallace appeared to ignore the comment and later contacted Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett in what was the first real step in his bid to regain his speaking time.
Several members told the Herald today that the group could disband if Mick Wallace defies pleas to stay away.
Waterford TD John Halligan said: "We can't stop him. There is no procedure there to do so. This man is a tax cheat. He spoke openly about threatening to use a hitman and yet there is no mechanism for us to stop his re-entry. It's a disgrace.
"I was the first TD in the group to call for him to resign in the wake of the revelations over his tax affairs. I still stand over that and I am not the only one."
Another member claimed that Mr Wallace "couldn't give a flying f***" and is adamant that he will rejoin the group.
"We don't want him here. He is completely despised by many of us," the source said.
Emergency talks were due to take place between members today, with several mooting the idea of a breakaway faction.
The fiasco has proved extremely embarrassing for the technical group which is at war over whether Mr Wallace should be excluded.
The Herald understands that Mr Wallace has gained the support of close pal Clare Daly, Roscommon TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan and Independent deputy Maureen O'Sullivan.
The speculation surrounding Mr Wallace's return was sparked by the announcement that he had secured speaking time during a debate last night.
The Herald has learned that the allocated time was given to him by Mr Flanagan. Dail rules allow TDs to pass over allocated time to their colleagues.
Mr Wallace raised eyebrows in the Dail chamber when he asked Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin whether income tax rate increases are on the cards.
"Would the minister approve of a higher band of income tax for monies over €100,000 in Ireland while we are in such difficult circumstances?"
Mr Howlin, who appeared speechless, replied: "Deputy Wallace asked about paying tax. What can I say? I am trying to formulate a response."
Mr Wallace was unavailable for comment today.