The Government has approved orders to return the responsibility for functions relating to ethics legislation and the Standards in Public Office (SIPO) Commission to the Minister for Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform, Paschal Donohoe TD, following the closure of a complaint against the Minister.
In January 2023, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD announced in Dáil Éireann that following the opening of a SIPO investigation into a complaint made against Donohoe and his subsequent recusal of ethics and SIPO functions, the relevant function would be transferred to the Minister of Finance, Michael McGrath TD.
The complaint that had been made against Donohoe arose from controversy surrounding the Dublin Central TD’s election expenses for both the 2016 and 2020 general elections after it had emerged that the businessman Michael Stone had paid significant sums of money to erect posters for the Fine Gael candidate within the constituency.
SIPO found that, given Donohoe had amended his electoral returns, the matter did not warrant referral to the Director of Public Prosecutions under the Standards of Public Office Act 2001. Donohoe apologised in the Dáil and made two separate statements on the matter.
The relevant functions transferred from Donohoe to McGrath, which have now been returned to Donohoe, were those from the following legislation:
- the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 and the Standards of Public Office Act 2001;
- part 15 of the Local Government Act 2001;
- the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 and the Regulation of Lobbying (Amendment) Act 2022;
- the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) Acts; and
- the Electoral Act 1997, as amended.
In February 2023, Statutory Instrument (SI) No. 89 of 2023, Standards in Public Office (Transfer of Departmental Administration and Ministerial Functions) Order 2023 and SI No. 88 of 2023, Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform (Delegation of Ministerial Functions) Order 2023 were passed, giving effect to the transfer of powers from 1 March 2023.
The Taoiseach then instructed that the recusal was no longer necessary in June 2023 given the closure of the complaint against Donohoe. This was given effect by the Standards in Public Office (Transfer of Departmental Administration and Ministerial Functions) (No.2) Order 2023 and the Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform (Delegation of Ministerial Functions) (Revocation) Order 2023. The orders were approved by Government on 4 July 2023 and came into effect on 5 July 2023.