herald

Sunday 25 August 2019

6 TDs and 2 senators repay almost €10k in allowances over no-shows

Solidarity TD Mick Barry
Solidarity TD Mick Barry

Eight members of the Oireachtas were denied the full amount of one of their annual allowances last year because of their poor attendance record at Leinster House.

An analysis of expenses paid out in 2018 reveals six TDs and a senator were paid less than the standard Travel and Accommodation Allowance (TAA) for not attending the Dail or Seanad for the minimum of 120 days.

The six TDs are Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty and Jonathan O'Brien; Solidarity's Mick Barry, People Before Profit's Gino Kenny, Independents4Change's Thomas Pringle and Independent TD Michael Harty.

The senator is Independent Padraig O Ceidigh.

Another senator, Ian Marshall, who was elected to the Seanad in April 2018, also failed to achieve a reduced required attendance level of 82 days - attending for 76 days.

Refunds totalling just over €9,737 were repaid by the eight members.

The TAA is based on the distance travelled from their normal residence by Oireachtas members to Leinster House and ranges from €9,000 to members based in Dublin up to €34,065 for those in band 12 who live more than 360km away.

Absence

Members must repay 1pc of the allowance for each day less than the required number attended, while TDs and senators can also voluntarily choose not to accept the full allowance.

Figures show more than €7.6m was paid in allowances to members last year, including more than €4m in TAA.

Almost €3.6m was paid out in the Public Representative Allowance (PRA), which covers other expenses including office rent and equipment.

Politicians who spend less than the allowance must return any unspent monies.

In 2018, 47 members repaid €156,531, while 11 waived some or all of their allowance.

The biggest amount of TAA refunded last year was almost €3,460 by Mr Barry, whose attendance was over 11 days below the required minimum.

The Cork North Central TD said he had taken the "political decision" to spend the best part of the Repeal the Eighth campaign in his constituency to ensure it was passed.

Mr Pringle missed five days because he had chosen to stay at home in Killybegs, Co Donegal, to be with his daughter while she was doing her Leaving Cert.

Dr Harty admitted he missed four days because of difficulty in getting another doctor to work in his medical practice.

The other four politicians who did not achieve the minimum of 120 days did not respond to a request for comment. All missed the required record by between one and five days.

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