Martin claims PAC chairman being ‘targeted’ by political opponents

Fianna Fáil leader says no one can question John McGuinness’s performance as committee chair

John McGuinness has been ’rigorous and challenging’ in his chairmanship of the PAC, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

John McGuinness has been ’rigorous and challenging’ in his chairmanship of the PAC, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has contended that Public Accounts Committee chairman John McGuinness is being deliberately targeted by political opponents.

Mr Martin has said this lunchtime that there has been an attempt to blacken the name of Mr McGuinness, a Fianna Fáil TD from Kilkenny, over recent months.

The Fianna Fáil leader asserted he could see Fine Gael’s hand behind the spate of recent disclosures on Mr McGuinness.

He was referring to reports in the media this week on internal Department of Enterprise and Trade correspondence at a time when Mr McGuinness was a minister of state in the Department.

The emails showed that Mr McGuinness had argued that his wife should be allowed to accompany him on trade trips abroad.

The request was not accepted at the time and she did not accompany him.

Yesterday Mr McGuinness defended his views, saying he would have paid for his wife’s expenses but at the same time arguing there was a “strong case” for the taxpayer to fund travel in some cases.

He has already come under fire over the cost of refurbishing his ministerial office and for expenses incurred by his son who is employed on his political staff.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One today, Mr Martin said Mr McGuinness had made no wrongdoing other than expressing an opinion and a view.

“Having an opinion is not in itself a sacking offence,” he said.

Mr Martin was also critical of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, claiming that the comments he made in Rome about Mr McGuinness were unacceptable.

He claimed that the Taoiseach was introducing partisan politics into the PAC, which is regarded as the most independent of all Dáil committee.

“The Taoiseach in a cheap way decided to get involved politically and create innuendo,” he said.

The Fianna Fáil leader also dismissed the suggestion that he would ask Mr McGuinness to step down.

He said nobody had question his performance in chairing the committee, at which he was “rigorous and challenging, [as well as] asking awkward questions”.

When it was put to him that other members of the committee, including Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty and independent Shane Ross, had said he needed to issue a statement explaining his position, Mr Martin said Mr McGuinness had had no difficulty in explaining the earlier controversy over the refurbishment of his office.

“Are we saying now that politicians are not entitled to [express] opinions?” he asked.

Earlier Mr Ross had said the row had turned into a party political spat between Mr Kenny and Mr Martin and this was damaging to the PAC and created the danger its independence would be diminished and “all other matters will divide along party lines”.