Councillors attend conferences at a cost of €40,000

Mon, Feb 18, 2013, 00:00

Councillors in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown attended over 80 conferences last year at a cost of more than €40,000, according to figures released by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.

One councillor, Independent Gearóid O’Keeffe, who represents Stillorgan but whose primary residence is registered as Kells Bay, Co Kerry, claimed €350 for a 590km round trip from Dublin for a conference in Tralee.

The four-star venue, Manor West Hotel and Spa on Killarney Road, is 36km from his Kerry residence. He also claimed €220 for subsistence and overnight stays while attending this conference on restorative justice, held last January .

Mr O’Keeffe attended six conferences for councillors last year – all in Cork and Kerry. He has yet to claim for travel and subsistence for the remaining five.

The councillor had the poorest attendance record at council meetings last year, making only 30 per cent of a possible 40 meetings.

The data lists all of the conferences attended by the council’s 28 elected members in 2012. It includes incomplete figures on how much travel and subsistence councillors claimed, as not all councillors have made claims for all conferences yet.

Conference fees

Fine Gael councillor Pat Hand attended the largest number of conferences, 10 in all – in Limerick, Kerry, Kilkenny, Galway, Wexford, Donegal, Down and Cork. So far he has claimed €4,200 for these, including conference fees for all and travel and subsistence for nine.

The council has estimated he will be due an additional €500 for travel and subsistence for one conference, bringing his total expenses for conferences to more than €4,700.

Councillors Tony Fox (Ind) and Victor Boyhan (Ind) attended eight conferences each. Mr Boyhan has fully filed his claims totalling more than €4,300 while Mr Fox has claimed €1,650 so far. The council estimates he is due additional expenses of more than €2,100, bringing his total for conferences to €3,750.

Annual salary

Six councillors did not attend any conferences last year: Melissa Halpin and Hugh Lewis from People Before Profit; Aoife Brennan and Tom Murphy from Fianna Fáil; Grace Tallon (Lab) and Tom Joyce (FG).

The data also shows almost €770,000 was paid to the council’s 28 councillors last year.The annual salary for councillors is just above €16,700.

They are also paid a travel and subsistence allowance of up to €6,400 for attendance at council meetings and can earn additional allowances by taking on responsibilities such as chairing strategic policy committees, worth €6,000.

Allowances are also paid for mobile phone and broadband costs. An additional fee is paid to the Cathaoirleach and leas Cathaoirleach.