Tuesday, 24 January 2023
Statement by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform
Before we proceed, I wish to remind Members that notwithstanding the politically-contested nature of the subject matter, a number of longstanding rules of debate still apply. First and foremost, all persons are entitled to their good name, whether they be persons inside this House or outside it. If an allegation impugns the character or integrity of any person, it must be withdrawn. I also remind Members that charges against any person can only be made by substantive motion, a longstanding rule of the House. Finally, Members will be aware that complaints in relation to the subject matter of these proceedings have been made to the Standards in Public Office Commission, SIPO. It is the body assigned with responsibility, in legislation passed by this House, to examine compliance with obligations under the Electoral Act and the Ethics in Public Office Act. There is an onus on all Members of the House to be cognisant of this in the course of our proceedings this afternoon. I would be grateful to all Members on all sides of the House for their co-operation in relation to these matters.
I call on the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to make his opening statement. Ten minutes has been allocated for the Minister's opening statement, after which each of the groups will have six minutes each, with a back and forth for questions and answers.
Thank you Ceann Comhairle. As I laid out in my statement to this House last Wednesday, I have been undertaking a review of my 2016 general election expenses in recent weeks. I also reviewed expenses incurred during the 2020 general election. In seeking to determine the full facts of the matter, I consulted with the local organisation in Fine Gael about any involvement from Michael Stone in both of those elections. The situation regarding support in 2016 was confirmed to me and I made a statement to the Dáil and to the media in this regard. However, the situation regarding support provided in 2020 was unclear. There was some recollection by my team of support being provided by Mr. Stone in that year but despite my asking directly a couple of times, Mr. Stone's view was that he had not provided such support. This was confirmed to me on more than one occasion. On Wednesday night, after my Dáil statement, I received a call from Mr. Stone telling me that a member of his team did recall support being provided in 2020 through the campaign team. This prompted his call to me. The details of the support provided are outlined in the statement from Mr. Stone which he issued earlier today. I was unaware of any of these details prior to Wednesday night.
Despite my best efforts in recent weeks to ensure the fullest account of the support given in both 2016 and 2020 was accurate, an amendment will be made to my 2020 general election expenses form to reflect the new information to the amount of €864 for labour and €392.20 for vehicles for support received during the election period. In addition, I am now aware that an unauthorised corporate donation of €434.20 was unknowingly received by Fine Gael Dublin Central. This was in the form of the use of vehicles, the commercial value of which exceeded the maximum allowable donation limit of €200. SIPO has been notified of this breach and €234.20, the amount received in excess of the allowable limit, will be refunded to the Designer Group. An amendment will also be made this week to my election expenses to the value of €1,256 for the work carried out and for the use of vans up to polling day.
In addressing the House on Wednesday evening, I aimed to be fully transparent. This was, I believe, the case at the time and the statement I made was an honest reflection of the information I had. It remains the case that when SIPO returns were being submitted in both 2016 and 2020, they were believed to be accurate, as any postering done throughout the campaign was not paid for by Fine Gael Dublin Central nor by me. All activity, it was understood, was carried out by volunteers on a voluntary basis. Neither I nor my team were aware of any payments to any individuals for the putting up or removal of posters in either election at the time of the filing of returns. The vast majority of posters that were put up and removed in my campaign were done on a voluntary basis. This was, we believed, the case with regard to the support given by Mr. Stone.
At each point in this, having undertaken reviews aiming to get the full facts, I have always looked to take the appropriate steps to correct the record. Mr. Stone has said that his statement and the information given to me represents his best and fullest recollection of events. Therefore, further steps are being taken. Since Thursday, I have been working to ensure that the information regarding the 2020 general election campaign is completely accurate. I have informed the Dáil of the facts as I have known them, that were true at each and every juncture.
I again apologise for the difficulties this has caused and the distraction it has caused and may cause from the important work of the Government. I have always sought to hold myself and those around me to the highest of standards. Finally, I wish to say that I deeply regret that this has caused the loss of Mr. Stone from the boards of both the Land Development Agency and the north-east inner city task force. He gave his time freely in an attempt to make a difference to the lives of those who faced significant challenges and his experience will be a great loss to both organisations.
When the Minister came before the House last week with his version of events, I told him he had been caught out. He was caught out concealing donations that were not declared at the time, in 2016. Despite the fact that he had information back in 2017 on the use of the company van, he did not do anything about it. He was caught out when journalists contacted him in November 2020 and he said his team reviewed everything and that there was no need to make any adjustments and everything was okay. It was only when SIPO wrote to him that he created this narrative to reverse engineer the numbers to make it all seem plausible.
The question I put to him on four occasions last week was the one he could not answer. The information he gave this House even included the number of tickets Michael Stone bought from him in a national draw but he failed to tell us that Michael Stone paid to put up his election posters in not just one but two elections. The reason he could not answer that question was that he knew at that time that he was caught out again. I will ask a specific question. In 2017, who made the allegation in respect of the use of Michael Stone's company van in the erection of the posters? Can the Minister answer that question? When he received repeated requests from the media in November 2022, he said he carried out a review. Who carried out the review? At that stage, did he know of the involvement of Michael Stone in the context of postering?
I thank the Deputy for his questions. It is important to be clear, when he uses the word "donation", that what exactly we are referring to here is an inadvertent corporate donation that I have now declared and will return to SIPO. The donation he referred to repeatedly that is at the heart of this is the issue of postering and the donation to which he refers is the commercial value that is attributed to posters that I did not know were being paid for and that I assumed to be voluntary. Every time he uses the word "donation", which he is correct to raise-----
-----I will make the point that this refers to postering that I assumed was done on a voluntary basis. He asked me who made the allegation; who passed on the point in 2017. It was a journalist at that point. I have been unable to determine who that is. As regards the review I initiated from the end of November across December, which took time to do, at that time I believed, but it took me some time to establish, that all the support I received had been on a voluntary basis.
Who carried out the review? The Minister informed at least one journalist that he carried out a review and he did not need to change his declaration. We now know that was not true. We now know he got a donation of postering in the 2016 campaign and again in 2020. Who carried out the review and how was the Minister able to issue that response in November - another cover-up in respect of this political donation?
As regards when it was brought to his attention in 2017, what did he do when somebody pointed out to him that a company van was used in erecting his posters at that time?
-----that has created an issue for which I now must be accountable in the context of the return of my SIPO forms and expenses, which I have done. As regards who carried out the review, I asked those who are involved in my constituency organisation and my team who have been involved in the campaign. As I said, until recently - I made a return in respect of my expenses for 2016 - I believed that activity had been provided on a voluntary basis. At campaign time, we put up many hundreds of posters in Dublin Central. I assumed they were all put up on a voluntary basis. That is the nature of the issue.
-----that is one of the many issues for which I hold myself accountable. I look back at that point and what I should have done in 2017 when I became aware of the issue was to amend my electoral expenses at that time to take account of the use of a commercial van that had a value of €140 at that point. It is one of the examples of my assuming that activity had been provided on a voluntary basis-----
Let me ask the questions. He told the media after his review that there was nothing to see here, but he is after telling the House that during the review it was identified that Michael Stone put up the posters in 2016. He has also told the House that some members of his team recollected that Michael Stone made a contribution in 2020. I ask the Minister to please come clean on this. How many posters did Michael Stone put up in 2016 and 2020? I ask the Minister not to take the Mickey out of this and tell us that Michael Stone only put up 75 posters. How many posters did he put up?
I thank the Deputy for his two questions. To be clear, it was only as I initiated a more thorough review of the 2016 campaign in the aftermath of receiving further contact that it became apparent to me that those individuals had been paid, but they were not paid for by me-----
As I said, I have not been able to determine the number of posters that were put up but, on the information that has been supplied to me, I have been able to determine the commercial value of the labour that was involved in putting up the posters-----
They form most of the revision that needs to be made from an expenses point of view. As I have indicated to the House, however, a further revision needs to be made with regard to what I now accept was a corporate donation that I have now acted on with SIPO.
Of course, the commercial value is not the value that Mr. Stone or the Minister would ascribe to the service the Minister describes and what he wants it to be but, rather, what it would cost him on the open market to obtain that particular service. We would prefer if we were here today talking about housing and health, for example, the issues that affect everybody's everyday lives and go to the core of the business we should be doing in this House today and every day. Those are the real issues that matter but this matters too. Standards matter. Accountability, ethics, transparency and full disclosure matter. I believe that standards and integrity matter to the Minister, too. However, today we know from the statement of Mr. Stone - it gives me no pleasure to say this - that the Minister broke the electoral rules on two occasions, that is, in 2016 and 2020. He has a second chance today to put this issue to bed once and for all. As we all know, third chances do not come along every day in politics. If he genuinely wants to make a clean breast of this, he needs to answer the questions I will put to him. I am pleased he has decided to take the advice of the Labour Party and to return to Mr. Stone elements of what are prohibited donations and to amend his statement to SIPO accordingly.
However, at the kernel of this is the fantasy that the donations made were made to Dublin Central Fine Gael and not personally to the Minister, the guy on the poster. He needs to address that fiction and fantasy; he needs to accept and acknowledge that these were donations made to him and that, insofar as we can establish, they did not comply with the law, as described. He has doubled down on these donations as donations made to the party, not to him as a candidate.
Let us look for a moment, if we can, at Mr. Stone's statement today on this assistance for a friend. He said, "The help given in 2020 was arranged through a member of ... Fine Gael ... in Dublin Central". This is important. I genuinely do not want to be dragging people unnecessarily into this. Who was the member? Was it the Minister's election agent? It is very important to establish that because, in electoral law, it is only the election agent who can legally authorise expenditure. Did Mr. Stone's donations and expenditure have the imprimaturof the Minister's election agent at any time? Is there a paper trail, which is required between a third party providing a service and the election agent? That is required in law.
If the donation was in fact made to Fine Gael in Dublin Central, I would be very annoyed if I were the second candidate in 2020. It seems she has not benefited from the assistance provided by Mr. Stone. How did the Minister's running mate benefit if indeed the donation was to Fine Gael in Dublin Central? If she did not benefit, this is really starting to look like what we believe it is: a personal donation made by a corporation that went undeclared. It is de facto a donation made to the Minister personally.
I thank the Deputy. I agree that ethics and standards do matter. It is why I am so disappointed to be in this position, having to explain who put up my posters, having to explain I assumed it happened on a voluntary basis, and having to take up the time of the House making a justification for it, let alone having to revise my expenses statements with SIPO.
Regarding the point the Deputy made on my "breaking the law", which I believe was the phrase he used, it gives me no pleasure at all to hear that statement made with regard to me, which is why I take this issue so seriously. I acknowledge the mistakes that were made. Respectfully, it is up to the Standards in Public Office Commission to form a view on this matter and evaluate my action, intention and what I have done to try to ameliorate this issue. I will engage with it in any way required.
One of the two questions the Deputy put to me concerned who received the postering at the time. It was the Fine Gael councillor for the north inner city, Mr. Ray McAdam. He received the postering. On the question on the support received by the second candidate and the point the Deputy made on the nature of the account, all the funding and support received at election time go into the central party political account, which is the Fine Gael Dublin Central account. If I had received anything personally, I would be revising my personal statements, but I did not. All the funding – any support received – went in there, but I go back to the key point. It is important to be clear regarding the nature of the donation. The nature of the donation is the value that is attributed to posters put up. At no point was money received that needed to be put into the account.
There is a donation of service and there is a commercial value to be placed on that. That is a matter that will be determined in time by the Standards in Public Office Commission. I hope it does its work expeditiously. I maintain it is a fiction that this donation of a service that has a commercial value, which is a donation, was given to Fine Gael Dublin Central, because that would potentially have implications for the second candidate's returns. That may need to be reviewed.
The Taoiseach said earlier he believes the Minister. He is entitled to say that. He is right to say people will make their own judgments later on today on the veracity of what the Minister says. In the interest of transparency and full disclosure, I ask the Minister, who I know values integrity in public life, to publish fully all his returns to SIPO – his amended returns for 2016 and those for 2020, including all the supporting documentation – to ensure full disclosure. I appreciate the Minister is not obliged to do so but believe it would be very helpful and in the public interest for him to do so.
I thank Deputy Nash. I appreciate his recognition of the value I place on integrity and standards. I am so aware of the issues I have created due to postering activity that happened on my behalf at election time. That is the issue. It concerns who put up my posters, assuming it happened on a voluntary basis.
On the point the Deputy put to me, I thank him again for recognising this was a donation of a service. On the point he made on making information available, of course I will make any available information available to SIPO, but the one point I will need to check is whether that will in any way impinge upon or influence the requirements SIPO has of me. Assuming there is no difficulty in this regard, any information that is available to me that constitutes my input to SIPO-----
The point was made last week that the question is not about the fact that errors were made or that issues arose but about how those issues are responded to when they arise and how those errors are responded to when made. It has to be said that, in their response to this, the Minister and his Government have made a complete hames of it. That is a charitable reading of the situation. At the core of the Minister's defence is his statement that he thought the work was being done on a voluntary basis. That is a very revealing statement to make. How could anybody with any political experience at all think that vans with corporate signage on them and teams of guys in high-vis jackets are doing the work voluntarily? How could the Minister possibly think that was the case?
The other point about this is that, even if the Minister is claiming he was completely ignorant of the rules, ignorance of the law is of course no defence. It is particularly not a defence when the breaching of the law is by the Minister responsible for implementing it. Does he really expect us to believe the work was being done on a voluntary basis and that it was okay if was being done on that basis? Is he not familiar with the returns we all have to make every year, for example, those regarding donations? Under question 3 on the donations statement, which we are all filling in this month, there is a reference to the nature of donations and a footnote referring to cash, cheques, the use of property, services etc. That seems perfectly clear. As the Minister responsible for the law, how does he expect us to believe he was ignorant of it and thought the work was voluntary?
I thank the Deputy very much for her questions. I want to pick up on the points she made that ignorance of the law is no defence. Of course, SIPO will impartially evaluate what has happened and the consequences of it. Not knowing is not a defence but proportionality in political debate is also a point I would make.
The Deputy referred to political experience. I am aware she has very extensive political experience from her many successful election campaigns in the constituency beside mine, but I have some political experience too. I have political experience of being a candidate, particularly in the 2020 campaign, during which I was performing a national duty because of my party.
Okay. I have heard what the Minister said. There are a number of forms we are required to fill out after an election. With regard to the election expenses statements from 2016 and 2020, is it the case that the Minister has amended both of those documents to include additional expenditure?
Is there a corresponding correction that needs to be made in relation to the donation statements, which of course would have been filled in the best part of a year after the election? Surely if the Minister is saying that he must change the election expenses declaration in relation to his expenses in his election campaign, surely that also requires a donation statement correction for both elections.
I am answering the Deputy's question. We have amended the 2016 statement and we will amend the 2020 statement shortly. I am not aware of the need to make a revision to any other donations form apart from the corporate one, which will happen shortly, and we are refunding back a share of that, which l acknowledge should not have been received, which was the commercial use of a van.
I made the point last week that what the Minister is doing and the explanation he is providing for these various figures sounds very much like reverse engineering to suit the rules. That is not the case in relation to donations that, as I have already said, are goods and services that have commercial value, which must be declared donations. The Minister seems to be suggesting these were not donations. Mr. Stone putting up the posters for the Minister, paying people to put up the posters, and providing the vans was a not a donation to the Minister but to the party. Is that correct?
The Deputy is asking me a question and I am going to answer it. My understanding, having assessed this matter thoroughly, is the main donation here that needs to be reviewed is from a corporate perspective, which has now happened, or, excuse me, which will happen.
I ask the Ceann Comhairle to just bear with me for a couple of moments. I am not talking about the corporate donation. I am talking about the donations in kind that the Minister got with people being paid to put up his posters and for the provision of vans. The Minister last week said, as I understand it, that they were actually donations to the party, so how did the Minister-----
Fine Gael was involved in an election. This is a guy who makes donations in the form of putting up posters for Fine Gael in the 2016 and 2020 general elections but he does not do so in 2019. He only seems to get involved when the Minister is standing for election. Is that right?
Okay, so they look like donations to the Minister as opposed to Fine Gael. Just to confirm, the Minister is saying that the donations of the assistance of the labour, worth €972 in 2020, and the use of the vans, which were €434.20 in 2020, were donations to Fine Gael as opposed to the Minister.
I am aware what the aggregate is, but I am sure the Deputy is correct. They went to different party entities. As I have said from the very beginning, one was the sale of the tickets and the other was the commercial value we are attributing to postering and the use of a van.
This is the problem. When the Minister begins to tell untruths he begins to trip himself up. It does not make any difference where the donations went. If they were donations to Fine Gael, they fall under the rules for donations to a party. The Minister is, presumably, aware that if a party receives donations or donations in aggregate exceeding €1,500 in any one year, it needs to declare that. Is the Minister aware of that rule?
My understanding here is that the value of the money referred to by the Deputy is below the personal threshold. As I have said, and I will go back to the point I made, one was for Fine Gael Dublin Central and the other was for tickets that went to Fine Gael nationally.
Again I emphasise that this does not matter. The Minister is known to be quite good with figures: €972, €434.20 and €343 is a total of €1,740, when the maximum that can be accepted without being accounted for in the election statement is €1,500. Yet Michael Stone does not appear on the donation statement. The Minister is just landing Fine Gael in it with his series of untruths.
The Deputy is adding together two personal figures and a corporate figure. They are different. The two personal figures relate to the sale of tickets that I brought forward myself, and the commercial value of postering, which Mr. Stone paid for. The other figure the Deputy refers to is for a corporate donation that came from the Designer Group, that corporate donation being the commercial value of the use of a van
It makes no difference whatsoever. They are two arms of Fine Gael. The Minister is responsible for SIPO. He is meant to know this stuff. In 2017, the Minister became aware of the issue around the use of a van in 2016. Why on earth did he proceed to do the same thing all over again in 2020?
The Deputy cannot make repeat assertions and assume they have or may have a truth here. As I said a moment ago, of the three different figures the Deputy has referred to, the figure of €430 is for the commercial use of a van-----
-----which was a corporate donation from the Dublin Designer Group, a portion of which will be refunded. The other two figures referred to by the Deputy are personal figures. Those personal figures are under the donation threshold-----
The Minister is talking down the clock and I wish to speak. The Minister may well have put a new phrase into the Irish political lexicon this afternoon, which is the "inadvertent" corporate donation. To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune but to lose both looks like carelessness. I wonder what the bould Oscar might say about this debate tonight. To fail to disclose election donations and spending once might, at best, be said to be carelessness.
What exactly is it when it is done twice? Did the Minister receive assistance of this kind from Michael Stone in the general elections in 2007 or 2011? Did the then Minister, Eoghan Murphy, before appointing Michael Stone to the board of the Land Development Agency, ask the opinion of the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, or canvass his thoughts on that matter? He was aware of these problems before he was appointed Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on 17 December last. Did he inform the Taoiseach that a potential controversy was brewing here? If not, why did he not do so?
I did not know Mr. Stone in 2007 and 2011. I have no recollection at all of talking to the then Minister, Eoghan Murphy, in relation to this. At that point the value of the work Mr. Stone was doing in the north-east inner city was becoming very broadly known as was the impact that he was having because of the kind of value he added. The impact he was having on issues was becoming well known. In relation to 2017, as I said in response to an earlier question, I do wish at that point I had revised the donation that was equal to the commercial value of the use of that van. At that point the change I would have made would have been at the value of €140.
I am sharing time with Deputy Tóibín, four minutes for myself and two for Deputy Tóibín. I thank the Minister for his opening statement. I have a number of follow-up questions. He mentioned that he is currently amending his returns for the 2020 general election. When are we likely to get a formal submission of those returns? Is it going to be some day this week? Could he outline his engagement with SIPO in this matter? He mentioned last week that he had received a letter, I think last Friday week, from SIPO stating that a complaint had been submitted. Could the Minister outline if there was any indicative timeline as to when SIPO will make a decision in this regard? When will the public know whether this complaint will be dismissed or progressed? Finally, is this it? Is there any more information we need to know? Is every piece of information about this matter in the public domain at the moment or are we going to get more disclosures or revelations in the next couple of days?
I thank the Deputy. As to when I will amend my 2020 return, I expect that will be done this week. What kind of engagement have I had from SIPO? They wrote to me last week indicating they would be considering the matter but they have not given me any guideline regarding how long it will take or what the process will be, nor would I expect them to. I am sorry, I have missed the Deputy's third question.
Excuse me, yes, all the information that I am aware of here and that I have now taken great lengths to seek to obtain, I have made available. I am certainly not aware at all of any further information that needs to be brought. It is the reason I have amended my election returns in the way I have.
I thank the Minister. I have a couple more questions. All the Deputies in the Chamber are aware that there is a ceiling for expenditure for every candidate in a general election, depending on whether they are in a three-seater, four-seater or five-seater constituency. Had the donation of services been properly accounted for, would that have pushed the Minister's expenditure above the limit?
This is my last question. This matter was flagged to the Minister in 2017. Is there anything he can say to the House and to the public as to why it was not acted on and why he did not recognise the severity and the seriousness of this complaint at the time and take action at the time?
Particularly in 2017, I did not give the matter sufficient attention. My regret in relation to that, I hope, is evident. I will explain again and again that what this is about is who put up my posters in what is largely a voluntary campaign and not recognising that a small number of them did go up in a non-voluntary way - they were paid for.
The issue of transparency of declarations is vital to a functioning democracy. This is because we have a dark history in this State of business people, developers and so on, people with money, buying influence regarding what happens in this democracy. It has cost us phenomenally, that type of buying of influence. The other side of this equation has not really been focused on at all as of yet. Michael Stone was nominated to the board of the Land Development Agency shortly after the donation. That is significant. The Minister named Mr. Stone as the chair of the north-east inner city initiative. That is significant. The Irish Mirrorreported that his donor received contracts worth €8.7 million over six years. I think that is significant as well. Two companies of which Mr. Stone was director received 141 payments over six years including for work that was done in Leinster House. Many of these payments were made for contracts through the OPW, which was part of the Minister's Department. Was he aware of any of these contracts contemporaneously when they were made?
-----a number of assertions in regard to the awarding of State contracts. The Deputy knows that I play no part in determining who gets a contract in this State. You know that. You know in particular that I play no role in who gets a contract from the Houses of the Oireachtas. What you have done is made a series of----
What those kinds of assertions do is every bit as dark for the future of our politics as the consequences of the history the Deputy referred to. He knows I play no role in the allocation of any State contract. He knows it is done in an independent, competitive way by the Office of Public Works and every other State body. Not only did the Deputy make a number of assertions that he knows are wrong. Let me also tell him about one that he may not know to be wrong. He said a moment ago that the chair of the north-east inner city task force was appointed by me.
It was appointed by the Department of the Taoiseach. It was a decision that was made by the Department of the Taoiseach and it is precisely in recognition of the kind of issues and concerns that might arise in relation to a task force within my own constituency that it is being run out of the Department of the Taoiseach, not any State body or any Government Department I am responsible for.
I do not bear any ill will against the Minister or indeed Mr. Stone, who I believe did a lot of good work in Dublin inner city. The only problem I see is that he was ahead of his time. He was a visionary. He was for Fianna Fáil until the Minister met him in 2011, then he changed tack before Fine Gael ever decided to go into coalition with Deputy Micheál Martin. Perhaps the most alarming thing this entire saga has highlighted to us all is that the barriers that existed between political and business classes in this country are now almost inseparable. It is certainly not a good time for politics or for any of us. The Minister's diary states that he had 12 meetings with Mr. Stone during his term as Minister for Finance.
His actions as Minister for Finance were always to bat for the bankers, vulture funds and so on. One of his last actions before leaving office as Minister for Finance and moving to his current role was to allow bankers to get their bonuses again. Now, more than 50 bankers are earning €1.5 million plus. Why do people need that kind of money to live in this country and why is the Minister batting so hard for them?
I will move on to some questions. At the Sunday press conference, the Minister told the nation that the posters went up at night. I asked him about this as well. It is clear as day that the posters went up during daylight hours, though. Does the Minister know day from night or dark from daylight? Will the Minister please clarify the situation, given that we now know that what he stated was not the case?
Regarding the tickets that the Minister sold to Mr. Stone, what manner of payment was used? Was it credit card, cash, cheque, bank draft, pound notes or whatever?
The valuation of the posters presented by the Minister is not credible. Will he provide a full breakdown of how he arrived at the figure of €1,057? Other candidates in his constituency documented figures of approximately €5,000. We all know the costs involved and we appreciate the volunteers who help us. We could not manage without them - families, friends and everyone one - putting up a few posters. It is not easy, but the Minister's valuation seems very skewed.
My understanding is that a second complaint has been sent to SIPO. That will take up even more time. This whole saga is taking away from people on trolleys and waiting lists, including housing lists. The Minister has handled this matter in a poor manner. It is time that he put it to bed. Let us move on and try to run the country for the ordinary people we are supposed to represent, not for the golden circles that seem to exist. I will not make any allegation about contracts, but we all know what is happening.
This is an approach that many other Deputies have called for to be replicated in other parts of the country. One of the driving forces of its success was Mr. Stone's work. This is one of the many reasons I deeply regret how this issue has developed and that I am in a position of having to make the case for it and to defend it in the Dáil.
I will turn to the four points that the Deputy put to me, the first of which is the fact that some posters may have been put up during the day. I said at the time that we were referring to an election in 2016 nearly seven years ago. It is possible that they went up during both the day and at night. I accepted that. That was why I subsequently said there were four different dates.
It is difficult enough to remember what happened with posters going up seven years ago. I acknowledge that some of them could have gone up during the day.
Regarding how the tickets were purchased, I am afraid I do not know that. That is a private matter but I can assure the House-----
Regarding the valuation of the posters, Deputy Mattie McGrath referred to a figure of €5,000, which I believe comes from my constituency colleague, Senator Fitzpatrick. It is worth emphasising again that the difference between the two figures is the fact that the vast majority of the posters that were put up in all of my election campaigns were put up by friends, family and volunteers using their private vehicles. What is so regrettable about this situation is that the amount of activity that I now understand was not provided in a voluntary way and has led me to revising to my election expenses statements was a relatively small share of all of the activity. It appears that other election campaigns had most of their posters put up in a commercial way, which is the reason for the difference in the figures.
Regarding the second complaint, that is a matter for SIPO rather than me, but I will engage with it on any matter it raises with me.
The Minister said on radio and in the House that he had sold the tickets to Mr. Stone. Now, he cannot tell us whether that involved cash, cheque, bank card, credit card or a new currency like crypto. Surely the Minister can remember. Did he sell so many that he does not know?
Obviously, it was not in cash. The purchase of the tickets and how they were registered happened in a way that had to be compliant with SIPO's guidelines, but I felt it was appropriate, given the interest in this matter, to declare that information voluntarily.
A Cheann Comhairle, thank you for the opportunity you have afforded me to respond to the many issues and questions raised this afternoon. I have done my best to respond to each matter in a truthful and accurate way. It is the greatest of privileges to be a Member of the Oireachtas, to represent the constituents of Dublin Central and, above all, to contribute as a member of the Government to improving the lives of the people I serve. I have served under three taoisigh in three successive Governments. During that time, I hope I have made some difference - bringing our national finances to a point of surplus twice; resolving the international negotiation regarding our corporate tax rate; and supporting the workers and employers of our country during a pandemic.
This is not to excuse, and is certainly not to ignore, the sequence of events that the Dáil has just focused on, but it does remind me of the standards that I should have applied regarding these issues. The issues, that I am accountable for, are: failing to amend my election expenses in 2017 to the tune of €140 when the use of a corporate van became known to me; not taking the time to determine fully all of the facts around payments that were made for postering, which were not known to me at election time; and not being as involved in the details of the running of an election campaign as I should have been, with the consequences of those actions under electoral law. I was not fully aware of how every poster in my election campaign was put up, who did it and how, and I did not know exactly how that activity was being accounted for. I had understood that help to be on a voluntary basis. I did not ask further questions but I clearly should have. These are important matters and the Standards in Public Office Commission will consider them further.
While this is all that some in the Opposition will seek to define me by, it is not all that I have done while serving the constituents of Dublin Central and looking to provide a service to our country.