Justice Minister Helen McEntee told to provide more detail on corporate donations “in the interests of transparency”

Justice Minister Helen McEntee was told to provide more detail on €4,200 in corporate donations from Tayto Park boss Ray Coyle, most of which she had to refund.

Records from the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) also reveal how SIPO at one stage mistakenly thought that the three donations had been received by Ms McEntee from three different people in her extended family.

In the original return made to SIPO, Minister McEntee did not identify the companies involved but was later told to do so “in the interests of transparency”.

A copy of the minister’s original donation statement said: “This lodgement consisted of three cheques to the value of €1,400 each, total €4,200. They were corporate donations.

“Whilst compiling the returns we discovered that these amounts were accepted in error. We have since returned three cheques to the value of €1,200 to the three companies. Further proof of this is available if required.”

The SIPO records also reveal a considerable amount of correspondence over other money received by Ms McEntee and the amount of detail provided on them.

The Justice Minister had also declared three lodgements – one of €7,000, a second of €5,000, and a third of €3,279 – from fundraisers linked to Fine Gael.

In June, SIPO queried whether the donations had come directly from the party saying that because Fine Gael had not been registered as a corporate donor in 2020, they might also have to paid back.

A spokesman for the minister said: “Minister McEntee’s office was clear at all times, including in writing, that the donations in question were corporate donations. It was never suggested by the Minister’s office that they originated from any private individuals.

“The error regarding the allowable donation limits for unregistered companies was identified by the Minister’s office itself during the process of compiling annual returns for SIPO. The money to be refunded was lodged without delay at that point.

“Following further examination of these donations by the Minister’s office, a further €400 was identified and returned by the Minister’s office to ensure compliance with the letter and the spirit of the rules.

“The Minister’s office were happy to provide SIPO with all the information required. The issue of repayment of other donations did not arise and the Minister’s donation statement was approved by SIPO.”