Ministers praise Mitchell despite tribunal finding

Senior Fine Gael ministers have heaped praise on party colleague Olivia Mitchell despite the Mahon Tribunal finding that she received an “inappropriate” payment.

An internal Fine Gael disciplinary committee announced on Thursday night that Ms Mitchell had been “exonerated of any complaint” and remained “a member of the party in high standing”.

The Fine Gael stance was in contrast to Fianna Fáil, which moved quickly to expel any members against whom the tribunal had made adverse findings.

Reacting yesterday, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton and Health Minister James Reilly both declared themselves “delighted” that Ms Mitchell had been exonerated by the party.

Mr Bruton said Ms Mitchell was an “excellent public representative and an excellent colleague”.

Dr Reilly echoed those comments: “I’m delighted for her that she’s been cleared. I think she’s an excellent TD with an extraordinary long service, and a woman of tremendous integrity.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was more circumspect, however, saying merely that he was “glad” the internal committee had been decisive and that he accepted its decisions in relation to both Ms Mitchell and a councillor, Therese Ridge, from whom the party whip was removed.

“I accept the result and the decision made by the internal disciplinary committee,” said the Taoiseach.

“As you know, that’s completely independent of the party in terms of Fine Gael’s rules and regulations.”

While the committee acknowledged that it had been “inappropriate” of Ms Mitchell to accept the £500 donation from lobbyist Frank Dunlop ahead of the 1992 general election, it said her actions had “not brought the party into disrepute” and therefore exonerated her.

However, the committee said it had been “injudicious and unwise” for Cllr Ridge to accept a £1,000 payment from Dunlop, which the Mahon Tribunal also deemed inappropriate.


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