Ministers say Michael Noonan should not stand aside

Two cabinet colleagues have rejected suggestions Finance Minister Michael Noonan should stand aside, as he is now the subject of an interested party in three separate commissions of inquiry.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe and Education Minister Richard Bruton rejected the calls and expressed full confidence in Mr Noonan yesterday.

As confirmed in the terms of reference for the Grace inquiry published this week, Mr Noonan’s response to being lobbied by the foster family in 1996 — weeks before an unexplained U-turn on whether to remove Grace from the home — is to be examined.

In addition, Mr Noonan’s actions are also related to the long-standing IBRC-Siteserv investigation, while a key conclusion has been made against him in the Dáil Project Eagle report, which will be central to a promised future inquiry.

While Mr Noonan has insisted he did nothing wrong, he has faced growing criticism over the issues.

However, asked whether the three commissions risk damaging Mr Noonan’s position in the Government, Mr Bruton and Mr Donohoe said they remain firmly supportive of their colleague.

“Michael Noonan has been a superb member of our Government. Ministers will be called to account, and that is right. We want to see stones turned over. He is doing a fantastic job,” Mr Bruton said at an unrelated higher education and employment event yesterday.

Mr O’Donohoe said: “Michael Noonan has been an anchor of this Government. He himself made the decision to participate in a hearing of the PAC into Project Eagle. It is typical of the way in which he has engaged fully.”

The comments were made as Disabilities Minister and Independent Alliance TD Finian McGrath urged people to trust his assurances the Grace inquiry will examine the experiences of everyone placed at the home.

He said the inquiry’s terms of reference need to be “very, very focused, because we want to get to the heart of the matter”, adding: “Nobody will be left behind.”

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