Thursday 17 October 2019

Paschal shuts the door on junior ministers' gripes over rising city hotel costs

Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Dublin
Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Dublin

A delegation of Fine Gael junior ministers have complained that they cannot afford to stay in Dublin during the week because of rising hotel costs.

At least eight ministers att- ended a meeting with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe last week and voiced concerns that their expenses do not factor in overnight stays in the capital when the Dail is sitting.

While TDs from outside Dublin are entitled to claim between €25,295 and €34,065 in unvouched travel and accommodation expenses each year, ministers are not.

Instead, they are required to submit mileage claims to their department and must cover their own hotel bills.

The situation has long been a bone of contention, but the ever-rising cost of hotel rooms led the junior ministers to challenge Mr Donohoe.

Hotel prices are likely to rise further when the Budget 2019 decision to end special tourism VAT rates kicks in on January 1.

A number of ministers confirmed to the Herald that a cordial meeting took place.

Bellyaching

"Paschal listened, but there's a realisation on both sides that nothing can be done about it at the minute," said one minister.

"Nobody is going to be interested in our bellyaching."

It is understood at least eight ministers were at the meeting and had the backing of others supportive of their position.

A second minister said: "Bas- ically, Paschal said people would have to wait until after an election.

"It's an anomaly that if you're a Dublin minister you're fine, but if you come up from the country you're paying for a hotel two or three nights a week."

Another member of the group estimated his hotel costs were hitting close to €500 a week, or up to €10,000 a year.

During the meeting, the ministers also reminded Mr Donohoe that they had foregone salary increases over the past two years under the public sector pay restoration deal.

While the decision to forego the money was "voluntary", the ministers said they were put under huge pressure to do so when compared with backbench TDs.

"In real terms, backbenchers are actually making more money than ministers of state," a source claimed.

Junior ministers are entitled to the basic TD salary of €94,535 plus a ministerial payment of €35,319, bringing their total income to €129,854.

Along with all TDs, they can claim a vouched public representation allowance, which is to be used for constituency offices, stationery and other purposes such as maintaining a website.

TDs can claim €20,350, but ministers are limited to a maximum of €16,000.

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