Michael Brennan has been following up on the admission by both of Sinn Fein’s Donegal TDs that they’d been using travel expenses towards paying for local workers.
It is now up to the Dail committee on members’ interests to investigate the redirection of travel expenses by Mr Doherty and Mr MacLochlainn — although it is likely to require a complaint from a member of the public in order to do this.
And the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) has also written in the past week to Sinn Fein with questions about its ‘industrial wage’ policy.
The party only allows its 14 TDs to take €34,000 of their €92,000 salary and they have to use the remainder to hire staff. No cash is handed over directly to the party in order to avoid breaching the donation limits.
But SIPO confirmed that it wants to find out if the payment of party workers’ salaries by TDs should still be classed as an electoral donation.
This a far from trivial question.
If the party was found to be using official expenses (which are paid specifically to facilitate the TD’s role as a Public Representative) to bolster political assets it would bring a very interesting set of issues to a head.
Talk of an internal review is fine, but there’s a lot of external processes that need to be completed before changes (if any) will be enacted by the party itself…
In the meantime, according to Sinn Fein Central, it is the two Donegal TDs who are investigating the Oireachtas Commission, not the other way round…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty