Thursday, 19 January 2023
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Pearse Doherty (Donegal, Sinn Fein)
Tá an tAire, an Teachta Donohoe, i lár conspóide mar gheall gur briseadh rialacha síntiúis thoghcháin. In olltoghchán 2016, fuair an tAire, an Teachta Donohoe, síntiús polaitíochta ó fhear gnó nár fhógair sé agus bhí sé os cionn an méid atá ceadaithe faoin dlí. Tá an cheist seo á seachaint ag an Aire ó 2017 agus dhiúltaigh sé aréir d’aon cheist eile a fhreagairt air seo. Tá ceisteanna ann a gcaithfidh sé a fhreagairt. Níl dabht ar bith faoi sin agus tá sé tuillte ag an bpobal go bhfreagróidh sé na ceisteanna sin.
On 14 July 2020, the Tánaiste and then Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin, came to this House and spoke in respect of a Government Minister who was in the middle of a controversy refusing to answer questions in the Dáil. This was after the Minister had given a statement to the House. He stated:
... he has decided that he is not prepared to address this allegation publicly and will not make any further statement or answer any questions on this issue in this House.
This decision has created a situation where legitimate doubts and additional questions are being raised. Government colleagues are expected to address these. This is simply untenable. It is my view that Deputy Cowen had an obligation to come before the House. It is also my view that this issue is damaging to the ongoing work of the Government.
This was just hours before the then Taoiseach sacked Teachta Cowen as a Cabinet Minister. Fast forward to the situation we had last night. A Minister who has been embroiled in controversy is refusing to answer questions in the Dáil and making a virtue of the fact that he will not say anything else on the matter and nothing is being done. What happened in this Chamber last night was farcical and completely unacceptable. On this issue, the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, has made not just one statement before the House, but two statements. Yet, he answered none of the questions that were put to him. Today, as his concocted story lies in tatters, he announced that he wants to make another statement - statement number three - before the Dáil. I, along with other Deputies in the Opposition, put dozens of detailed questions to the Minister last night and he refused point blank to answer those questions.
What is needed is what other Ministers have undertaken to ensure that they are accountable to this House, namely, questions and answers before the Dáil in real time. When the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, leaked a confidential document to his friend and was subject to a SIPO investigation - not only a SIPO complaint but a Garda inquiry - he came before this House and answered questions in real time, over and back, for well over an hour and a half. When the Minister, Deputy McEntee, appointed a Fine Gael activist as a judge to the Supreme Court she did likewise, answering questions over and back and being accountable to this House.
The Minister, Deputy Donohoe, does not need 24 hours to make his statement fit with the concocted narrative he has given on a number of different occasions. Does the Tánaiste believe the Minister's story? If so, which version of it does he believe? Has the Tánaiste asked the Minister if Michael Stone, a personal friend and political supporter, paid for posters to be erected for him in the 2020 campaign, having done so in the previous general election? That question was put to the Minister four times last night and he refused to answer it. Has the Tánaiste asked the Minister anything about this controversy in which he is embroiled or is it one rule for the Tánaiste’s Government Ministers and another rule for Fine Gael Government Ministers? Will the Tánaiste ensure that the Government Whip brings an amendment to the Order of Business so that proper questions and answers can be posed to this Minister who point blank refused to make any other comment on this matter but has been forced to make a U-turn and wants to make a third statement? A statement does not cut it. We demand accountability. We demand questions and answers with the Minister and that he come clean.