Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin has said his personal view is the Public Accounts Committee should desist from its plans to discuss expenditure of the Office of the President.

His comments came after the PAC agreed to invite the Secretary General of the Department of An Taoiseach before it next Tuesday to discuss expenditure of the Office of the President.

Speaking at the National Ploughing Championships, Mr Martin said that it was very interesting that it was seven years on that the PAC had decided to look into the matter.

He said the PAC should examine the issue in the aftermath of an election context because people would read "all sorts of agendas" into discussing it now.

Mr Martin said he would be worried about how PAC would be perceived as a result because it should be above politics.

In the first PAC meeting since the summer recess, committee chairperson Sean Fleming said there had been a number of requests to discuss the expenditure in the President's Establishment, which is a feature of the annual Comptroller and Auditor General's report.

He proposed that the matter should be discussed as "people have said that it is not available under the Freedom of Information".

"It is within the remit of the Public Accounts Committee and if the committee were seen as not wanting to discuss the matter people may even raise bigger questions than the questions that might get answered if we had a discussion on it.

"In view of the fact that nominations close next Wednesday ... really next Tuesday is the last possible day. I would not be comfortable having a meeting on the issue at all after the close of nominations."

He said that he would not allow any questions about the President.

"The President is not answerable to this House," he said.

"There is a long standing principle. We will honour that in its entirety. If anybody asks a question about the President I will rule it out of order."

Mr Fleming said the PAC was in contact with Martin Fraser, the Secretary General of the Department of An Taoiseach, who is the accounting officer.

The committee had received a letter from Mr Fraser outlining concerns around holding the meeting. 

Mr Cullinane questioned how Mr Fraser had suggested to the committee that he would not be able to answer questions about the President's expenditure as it would be "unconstitutional".

He asked if the committee has got legal advice about what they can and cannot ask. 

Mr Fleming said that it has not obtained legal advice as it will not direct any questions to Mr Fraser about the President and questions would only be in relation to the financial matters for which he was Accounting Officer.

The C&AG said that Mr Fraser would "baulk" at questions about why money was being spent in the way it was.

He said he did not think Mr Fraser would have a difficulty in answering questions on how the money was spent.

He would have responsibility in making sure there was a proper system of expenditure control in place.

Mr Fleming said he expected that some questions may not be appropriate if TDs "stray too far".

The C&AG pointed out that there had not been excess expenditure on the President's vote.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry took issue with tone of the letter from Mr Fraser to the PAC where he suggested that it would be "unconstitutional" for him to answer questions about the President's expenditure.

He said he resents the suggestion that it "would undermine the impartiality of the civil service".

Mr McCarthy told the committee that the office of the current President was coming in under budget and was surrendering 10% of its allocation. 

"There hasn't been an excess expenditure on the President's vote any year. They are coming in under budget.

"Normally they would have a surrender of maybe around 10%. I think was the figure for 2016," Mr McCarthy said.

Labour TD Alan Kelly said the committee should have sought legal advice and warned that the chair of the committee, Mr Fleming, that the move could damage the committee. 

"It will be impossible for you chair to unsay things that will be said in here that will be linked to a candidate who is currently in office," Mr Kelly said. 

He said the campaign was "up and running" and was the most dominant story in the media. 

"If we are going to jump in to this now, it's really going to say a lot about this committee, our priorities," he added. 

Fine Gael TD Peter Burke also warned that the discussion could have implications for the campaign.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly said there were practical questions to be asked, not about any president, but about the expenses and how they were used.