Dáil committee writes to Wallace
The Dáil Committee on Members’ Interests wrote to Wexford TD Mick Wallace today, seeking information on the tax affairs of his construction company, MJ Wallace Ltd.
Committee chairman Thomas Pringle told reporters at Leinster House this afternoon that the committee needs this information to decide whether it has jurisdiction to investigate the conduct of Mr Wallace.
The committee met on foot of a request from Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett to look into the Wallace case.
Mr Wallace recently made a €2.1 million settlement with the Revenue Commissioners for under-declaration of VAT. The Wexford TD's company MJ Wallace Ltd had under-declared VAT to a value of €1,418,894.
“We have today decided to write to Deputy Wallace and to MJ Wallace Ltd asking them to give us some information in relation to the timelines of when certain actions took place, in order that we can decide whether they took place while Deputy Wallace was a member of the Houses, so that we can decide whether we have a remit that we can investigate this matter,” Mr Pringle said.
“We have also requested MJ Wallace Ltd to authorise the Revenue Commissioners to correspond directly with the Committee as well.”
The Donegal Independent TD said the committee hoped to be able to reconvene early next week to assess the information provided.
Asked what this mean for a possible statement by Mr Wallace to the Dáil or a debate on a motion of censure, Mr Pringle said this was a matter for the Government and the party whips to decide.
“I think if the Committee decides that it can investigate this matter, obviously it would be better that there would be no motion of censure put before the House while the Committee is processing through the inquiry that may take place,” he added.
The other members of the committee are John Browne of Fianna Fáil, David Stanton and Olivia Mitchell of Fine Gael, and Jack Wall of Labour.
Earlier, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Government would make a decision on a Dáil debate relating to Mr Wallace after the committee considers the issue. "The whips will meet after that, and the Government will respond," he told the Dáil this morning.
Mr Wallace asked that he be given Government time to make a statement. Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins also called for a debate.
The Dáil was earlier adjourned amid a heated row on the issue.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin claimed there was no barrier under standing orders to have Mr Wallace’s under-declaration of VAT discussed. “I do think it is extraordinary that every news channel, every station outside of this House, can debate the issue and facilitate discussion of it," he added. "This House is the last place that can do that."
Mr Martin said that irrespective of the merits or demerits of the case, or one’s views of it, it was an extraordinary state of affairs that parliament was not allowed debate it.
The Ceann Comhairle said that if Mr Martin had telephoned him he could have explained the situation. Mr Barrett said he had received the request under standing order 44, where clarification on an issue was needed and no debate took place afterwards. The issue involved was not in accordance with that standing order.
Mr Martin said that the matter could be dealt with under standing order 57. When Mr Barrett accused the Fianna Fail leader of playing politics with the issue, Mr Martin said he was not. Mr Barrett said he had not been asked to deal with the matter under standing order 57.
After some further exchanges, Mr Barrett adjourned the Dáil for five minutes.
Differences have emerged between the Government and Opposition over how to handle the disciplining of Mr Wallace.
Senior Fine Gael and Labour figures have expressed concern that any motion of censure against the Wexford TD could prejudice future action by State agencies against him, but Opposition sources say the fact he has admitted evading tax makes this unlikely.
Fianna Fáil has said it will move a motion of censure against Mr Wallace if the Government or the technical group fail to do so. However, it agreed yesterday to defer consideration of a motion until the Dáil committee on members’ interests discusses the issue.