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Thursday 20 September 2018

Who's round was it anyway? in disputed €5k Dail bar bill

Leo Varadkar wants bills paid. Photo: Maxwells Dublin
Leo Varadkar wants bills paid. Photo: Maxwells Dublin

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was quick to say that politicians who refused to pay their Dail bar and restaurant bills should have it deducted from their salary.

However, it has now emerged that the biggest "debtor" to benefit from the controversial €5,500 write-off for bar and restaurant debts may have been his own department.

A breakdown of the €5,500 written off by the Oireachtas earlier this year has revealed the Department of the Taoiseach was recorded as owing €965 across a series of invoices.

However, the department has disputed the figures, saying its records show that most of the money was repaid long ago.

The bill has in any event been written off, along with €4,500 more owed by six politicians, several different Government departments, two committees, the Government press office and Fine Gael.

A detailed breakdown of who owes what has been released under FOI, showing that one former politician owed a total of €943 to the restaurant, which will not be pursued.

Another ex-TD or Senator owes €301 directly to the Dail bar and that debt has also been cancelled.

Retired

Four other politicians, all either retired or who have lost their seats, owed totals of between €66 and €267 to the bar and restaurant, none of which will be chased up.

The Houses of the Oireachtas has said it will not identify the six politicians who benefited but said none of them were currently serving TDs or Senators.

It said there was evidence that "strongly suggested" its own records may not be accurate.

"Full release could cause unfair negative exposure to the former members in question," it said.

"[We] could not find a convincing reason to release the names of these individuals and impinge on their right to privacy, when in fact their identities may have been incorrectly associated with non-payment of balances in the first instance."

It said that in a couple of instances, ex-politicians had even been able to provide evidence that some of the debts had been paid, which cast "doubt over all these historical imbalances".

The Oireachtas has however decided to release details of the Government departments and committees for whom debt has been written off.

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