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Michelle O’Neill criticised after taking ministerial car to Sinn Fein event in Dublin


Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has been criticised after it emerged she used a ministerial car to take “a significant detour” to what has been described as a Sinn Fein event in Dublin.

The information emerged after a written question to the Finance Minister, Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy, from the TUV leader Jim Allister.

He asked in what circumstances ministerial vehicles could be used, and if Ms O’Neill had been driven to Dublin for a party political event on September 24 last year.

The answer stated that official transport can be used “for any purpose in connection with their Ministerial duties” but “must not be used for journeys on party, constituency or private business, except if such business takes place en-route between two official engagements”.

It added that Ms O’Neill “was between official engagements” when she travelled to Dublin in the Ministerial car.

In a statement, Mr Allister said: “Ministerial cars are not the playthings of individuals to use as they please but paid for out of the public purse.

"One can dress it up whatever way you please but I believe any reasonable person would regard a trip to Dublin as a significant detour while being ‘between official engagements’.”

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He added that it was not the job of the taxpayer to fund travel to Sinn Fein meetings, and that he would be asking the Executive Office if Ms O’Neill had reimbursed the public purse for the trip.

“We also deserve to know what exactly were the official engagements on that day,” he said.

“Sinn Fein already get special treatment when it comes to Ministerial cars with the party using its own drivers rather than drivers drawn from the civil service pool. Now it appears that they use taxpayer funded cars to travel to party meetings. It isn't good enough.”

Sinn Fein has been contacted for a response.

The party’s ministers have been linked to previous misuse of ministerial cars.

In August last year, it emerged Finance Minister Conor Murphy and the then Communities Minister Caral Ni Chuilin had been driven to Bobby Storey’s funeral in the luxury vehicles.

The revelations came after another question from Mr Allister.

At the time a spokesperson for the Department of Finance stated that Mr Murphy had stopped on his way home "en route to official business in Stormont".

Ms Ni Chuilin said she had been “collected from home on June 30, 2020, and taken to Bobby Storey's funeral in west Belfast by the ministerial car. I was later collected and taken to Stormont for Assembly business, including the final stage of the Housing (Amendment) Bill."

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