'World of difference' between Sinn Féin and Donohoe's expenses issues, says Ó Broin

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin said although the party made a "number of errors" regarding election expenses, the matter was rectified as soon it was brought to their attention
'World of difference' between Sinn Féin and Donohoe's expenses issues, says Ó Broin

Vivienne Clarke

There is a "world of difference" between controversy surrounding Paschal Donohoe's election expenses and that of Sinn Féin, the party's housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has said.

On Wednesday, Sinn Féin confirmed it failed to declare €2,160.70 worth of expenses during the 2016 general election relating to the hiring of venues.

This came a day after the Minister for Public Expenditure made a second statement in the Dáil concerning undeclared donations from both the 2016 and 2020 general elections, after it emerged businessman Michael Stone made a "personal payment" to cover the cost of hanging posters in Mr Donohoe's Dublin Central constituency.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio's Morning Ireland, Mr Ó Broin said: "The attempts by some politicians to draw an equivalence to what are effectively relatively minor administration errors on our part versus refusal and failure to declare very significant corporate donations in kind, is a world of difference."

He said once the errors had been brought to the party's attention they were immediately rectified.

"That's a world of difference from Paschal - who failed to declare significant donations, was notified in 2017, did nothing about it, was notified in 2022, did nothing about it, came before the Dáil once, didn't declare his full donations, and still has significant questions to answer," Mr Ó Broin said.

The Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid-West claimed the Minister still has not accounted for the "full commercial value of not one, but two commercial donations from a significant business figure who went on to get appointments to State boards, some outside the public appointments process".

Mr Ó Broin added this donor is also the recipient "of very significant State contracts".

Ahead of Mr Donohoe's second Dáil statement on the matter, Mr Stone apologised for his "mistake recollection", stating he was unaware that his donations for the 2016 and 2020 general elections would need to be declared by the Minister's campaign team.

As a result, Mr Stone also announced he would step down from his unpaid roles with the North East Inner City Programme Implementation Board and the Land Development Agency.

Mr Ó Broin also told the programme that the Standards in Public Office (Sipo) commission has written to Sinn Féin following a complaint from a "Fine Gael activist" regarding the party's Abú database - Sinn Féin internal canvassing and polling system.

He explained it costs €45 a month to host the database, but as it is a recurring charge and must be paid even when an election is not taking place, they do not consider it to be an election-related expense.

However, Mr Ó Broin added this cost is recorded and published in the party's annual accounts, but added they will "absolutely respond" to Sipo over the matter.

"There is a world of difference between administrative errors, no matter how sloppy they are, and the refusal and failure to answer questions about significant corporate donations. They aren't the same thing," Mr Ó Broin reiterated.

"It is the Opposition view that Paschal has not answered key questions - the significance of his failure to do so is that Paschal may actually be in breach of the overall spending limits in both elections, something that even with the list of administrative errors...we would not be.

"They are not the same, and on that basis I think it is a mistake to make a false equivalence," he added.

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