THERE was an angry exchange in the Dáil yesterday over the funding of politics after the Taoiseach said a Sinn Féin office in Donegal had been established with American money.
The Irish Independent reports that Micheál Martin made the claim – which prompted a furious denunciation from SF spokesman on Finance Pearse Doherty – after the Government had seen off an attempt to ban pandemic payment cancellations by 76 votes to 56.
That outcome prompted renewed criticism of the Government’s handling of ministerial pay, with the Taoiseach insisting he was now gifting the Exchequer €25,000 a year as a result of a Cabinet decision on Monday night.
Mr Martin then referred to a TD’s salary being pegged to that of a civil service principal officer at a rate of €96,000 annually, saying this was the right thing to do because “if politicians get into a competition” for lower pay for purposes of public perception, it would be to the detriment of politics generally.
He then made allegations about the funding of a Sinn Féin office in Donegal. It prompted Pearse Doherty to jump to his feet in undisguised anger.
He said the Taoiseach had accused him of illegality and called on him to withdraw the allegation because foreign funding of a political party is against the law. Ignoring the Ceann Comhairle telling him he was out of order, he said he was looking for the protection of the chair. The Taoiseach had suggested the office was “funded from an illegal source,” he said, namely America.
Mr Martin said he had made no allegation in relation to illegality by the Deputy. He said there were statements in the media, “on the public record,” in relation to the office, expressing thanks that US beneficiaries had “enabled them to develop the office,” but he accepted Deputy Doherty’s assertions and withdrew the imputation. “If not true, I withdraw.” Mr Doherty said it had been a “scurrilous statement,” followed by an attempt to defend the indefensible.