There are no minutes of the more than a dozen private meetings Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe held with Michael Stone, the businessman who paid for the politician’s election posters to be erected.
r Donohoe’s failure to declare the effective donation from Mr Stone – who paid thousands of euro towards displaying posters in his Dublin Central constituency in 2016 and 2020 – is being examined by the State’s ethics watchdog, the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo).
Mr Stone, chief executive of the engineering firm the Designer Group, resigned as a board member of the Land Development Agency and as chair of the North East Inner City (NEIC) taskforce amid the controversy about the undeclared donations.
A previous review of Mr Donohoe’s ministerial diary by the Irish Independent revealed he met Mr Stone at least 13 times from 2018.
But Freedom of Information requests have established that neither the Departments of Finance or Public Expenditure, where Mr Donohoe has served as a minister for the last seven years, kept any minutes, notes or any records of the meetings that took place.
“There were no records kept as they were oral updates on the NEIC taskforce during which no officials were present,” Mr Donohoe’s spokesperson said last night.
The Fine Gael minister and Dublin Central TD was forced to account for his actions on two occasions in the Dáil in January in what became a significant political controversy.
Mr Donohoe said he had not known Mr Stone was paying people to put up posters on his behalf in two election campaigns, but committed to partially repaying an “unauthorised corporate donation” from the businessman.
He apologised over the affair and said he would cooperate with the Sipo inquiry.
It also emerged at the time that Mr Stone bought dozens of Fine Gael super draw tickets from Mr Donohoe and that the minister attended the businessman’s wedding at the five-star Powerscourt Hotel in Co Wicklow last November.
Designer Group (DG), which Mr Stone founded, has also been involved in a number of significant state projects, including the development of TU Dublin’s Grangegorman campus in Mr Donohoe’s constituency and the Forensic Science Laboratory.
In 2017 Mr Donohoe officially opened DG’s new offices.
All the previously disclosed meetings were in relation to the North East Inner City (NEIC) taskforce, according to the minister’s spokesperson, despite some diary entries not referring to the taskforce.
It is not clear why some of the entries do not refer to the taskforce and the spokesperson said there are no plans to amend the entries.
On August 4, 2020, soon after the current Coalition was formed, Mr Donohoe and Mr Stone held a two-hour morning meeting.
Then, on December 4, 2020, the two men held a “breakfast meeting”.
They met three times in Mr Stone’s capacity as NEIC initiative chair during 2021 and 2022.