Public Accounts Committee chairman John McGuinness has answered questions from the committee over controversial comments he made this week and on the judgement he exercised when he was a minister of state.

Mr McGuinness temporarily stepped down as chairman for the duration of his appearance before the committee.

He had been criticised for bringing his wife on government trips when he was a minister of state for trade at the Department of the Environment.

This morning, Mr McGuinness said that as a junior minister, his wife had travelled with him on three trips to Seattle, Edinburgh and London. They were paid for by the taxpayer.

He was also asked about his son Andrew, who was employed in his department as a personal secretary.

Mr McGuinness said his time in the Department of Enterprise had not been a happy one and that he had experienced a department that was not up to speed on issues.

Asked about criticism of the department contained in a book that he wrote, the Carlow Kilkenny TD observed that he now sees why politicians wait until they retire to write their autobiographies.

He said he was "damned sure" that material that found its way into the papers had been leaked by the department.

Mr McGuinness added that in all his time in politics he had never seen such reporting of a minister's time in office as he had read in recent weeks.

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald said it was a very serious situation if the Government had been involved in attempts to undermine the work of the committee, and assurances were needed from the highest level that this was not the case.

Shane Ross said it was a "grave situation" if civil servants were leaking information to damage the committee.

The committee ended without any decision on the chairman.

However, he has been asked to come back and report on an overnight trip to London that he took as a junior minister and on which he was accompanied by his wife.