Justice minister Helen McEntee paid an ex-Fine Gael county councillor charged with alleged charity theft almost €29,000 in state funds for secretarial services.
Former Cavan County Council cathaoirleach Seán McKiernan appeared in court on Tuesday charged with the alleged 2019 theft of more than €172,000 from a Navan mental health housing charity.
Meanwhile The Ditch can reveal that the garda investigation into the alleged theft has been ongoing for almost two years and that auditors have expressed concern that the charity, which houses vulnerable people, may no longer be able to continue to provide services because of its financial situation.
McEntee is among three Fine Gael ministers who paid McKiernan and his company a total of more than €40,000 for secretarial services using an exchequer-funded allowance.
Helen McEntee first engaged Seán McKiernan’s secretarial services in 2016 when she was a junior minister, according to records obtained by journalist Ken Foxe.
Under an Oireachtas scheme TDs can claim an allowance of €41,092 for secretarial assistance, public relations or training.
McEntee first paid McKiernan €3,000 under the allowance from September to October 2016 but then began making payments to his company, Consilium Communication Ltd, from November of that year.
McEntee had paid McKiernan and his firm €9,000 in just more than three months by the end of 2016. In 2019 she paid the company €5,899 over four weeks in November and December.
The following year, on 10 November, 2020, McEntee paid Consilium Communications €10,600, again for secretarial services. She made another payment of €3,000 to the company in January 2021.
McEntee paid McKiernan and his company a total of €28,499.
Fine Gael TD Damien English, formerly a junior minister, paid McKiernan and his company €5,400 from September to December 2016. It was during this same period that McKiernan and his company received more than €9,000 from McEntee. English made another payment of €1,800 to Consilium Communications in January 2021.
The Ditch understands that English previously employed McKiernan as his taxpayer-funded civilian driver in 2015 when he was junior education minister.
McKiernan’s party colleague and fellow Cavan man senator Joe O’Reilly also engaged the services of Consilium Communications. From November 2020 to January 2021, O’Reilly paid the company €5,100.
Earlier this week McKiernan appeared in Trim District Court charged with the theft of €172,130 from Navan Mental Health Housing Association CLG on various dates in 2019.
McKiernan was a director of the charity but resigned in February 2022. The following month both gardaí and the Charities Regulator launched separate investigations into the alleged theft after a disclosure was made by the Meath-based charity in December 2021.
McEntee declined to comment when asked when she stopped using McKiernan’s services and when she became aware that he was under investigation for theft.