Mitchell under pressure as report awaited

 

SOME SENIOR Fine Gael figures are privately concerned that Dublin South TD Olivia Mitchell could be scapegoated by an internal party inquiry initiated in the aftermath of the Mahon report.

The report found that Ms Mitchell, then a councillor, received an “inappropriate’’ election donation of IR£500 from lobbyist Frank Dunlop in 1992. It also found that Ms Mitchell had not solicited the donation.

The internal party committee investigating the matter is expected to make a report to the parliamentary party at the end of this month.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said yesterday that the committee was looking at anybody who was mentioned adversely in the report. He added that it seemed to him the amount of money involved was very small.

“Obviously there is a principle involved and the principle is being addressed,’’ said Mr Noonan.

“I do not want to prejudice anything by saying something about it while there is a process going on.’’

Fine Gael TDs declined to comment publicly yesterday. But some privately echoed Mr Noonan’s observation that the amount involved was small and that she had accepted the contribution at a time when it was not widely known that Mr Dunlop was making corrupt payments to politicians.

“Contributions well in excess of the amount paid to Olivia Mitchell were being made to political campaigns at that time,’’ said one TD.

“There is justifiable anger and outrage in the aftermath of the Mahon report, but there is need for balance and a careful examination of the circumstances in which contributions were received and the amount involved.’’

Ms Mitchell had meetings with Mr Dunlop and with developer Owen O’Callaghan relating to the Quarryvale project and was a supporter of the project.

Following the report’s publication last month, she said Mr Dunlop was involved with many projects and she never associated the donation with Quarryvale.

“It was one of two contributions I was delighted to get,’’ she said.

“Knowing my own circumstances, I do not accept the finding. If I knew then what I know now, I would not have taken it.’’

First elected to the Dáil in 1997, Ms Mitchell held a number of frontbench positions before being dropped after she supported a leadership heave against Enda Kenny.