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TDs and Senators claim €500k staff overtime - for 11 sittings

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The Convention Centre, where a new Taoiseach was picked

The Convention Centre, where a new Taoiseach was picked

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The Convention Centre, where a new Taoiseach was picked

TDs and senators signed off on almost €500,000 in overtime claims for their political staff during a four-month period in which the Dáil only sat eight times, and the Seanad only met three times.

Nearly €1m was paid to politicians' secretaries and parliamentary assistants in overtime in the first seven months of this year, including €262,431 during the 'stay-at-home' restrictions between March 27 and May 18.

A total of €58,004 was also paid out in respect of overtime between January 14 and February 20, during which period the Dáil had been dissolved and the general election was held.

Overtime claims require approval only from the relevant politician.

A maximum of eight hours overtime per week can be paid to each employee. Of the 5,266 overtime claims submitted during the seven-month period, 3,612 or 70pc were for the maximum eight hours.

Meetings

Records released under freedom of information laws reveal that €89,953 was paid to political staff in respect of 526 overtime claims in January, when the Seanad sat just once and the Dáil did not sit at all.

Overtime payments in February amounted to €64,139 in respect of 353 claims during a month in which the Dáil sat once and there were no meetings of the Seanad.

In March, when the Dáil sat three times and the Seanad sat twice, a total of €160,533 was paid to political staff in respect of 858 claims.

In April, the Seanad remained closed but the Dáil sat four times, albeit with reduced attendance.

A total of €125,489 was paid in respect of 704 claims. Between January 5 and May 3, €474,674 was paid.

The Dáil sat eight times in this period, while the Seanad met three times.

Leinster House was closed at times due to the pandemic.

The overtime bill for political staff during the first seven months of this year came to a total of €951,505.

The payments are subject to almost no scrutiny by the Houses of the Oireachtas. A spokeswoman said an audit is conducted each November, but this merely monitors whether staff are close to exceeding the maximum of 48 weeks of overtime claims per annum.

It was reported earlier this year that one-in-seven TDs has employed family members as either secretaries or parliamentary assistants.