Higgins entitled to rally expenses

Sat, Oct 20, 2012, 01:00

SOCIALIST PARTY TD Joe Higgins was entitled to use a Dáil allowance to cover travelling expenses outside Dublin, Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin has confirmed.

Mr Howlin has written to the Dublin West TD saying his claims for travelling expenses to attend anti-household charge rallies and meetings throughout the country were allowable under new rules laid down in 2010.

Mr Howlin’s letter states that he received advice from Attorney General Máire Whelan on the matter.

Since it first emerged that Mr Higgins claimed relatively small amounts for travelling to the protest meetings and rallies outside his constituency, he has maintained he was entitled to the expenses.

He based his argument on a sentence of the statutory instrument that gave a legal basis to the new system of Oireachtas expenses in 2010. While the travel and accommodation allowance was primarily intended for travel between the TD’s constituency and Leinster House, it also stated that TDs could “claim for travel expense which the member is obliged to incur in the performance of his or her duties as a member of Dáil Éireann”.

In his letter Mr Howlin stated: “The tasks the electors expect of elected representatives may involve a range of activities not limited to their constituency duties including . . . involvement in groups and meetings with a wide range of bodies and persons.” Mr Higgins had received legal advice to that effect when the controversy first arose in July and said yesterday that Mr Howlin’s letter vindicated his position.

His counsel’s opinion had stated there were ambiguities in the wording of the statutory instrument setting up the allowance regime and that it did not exclude travel outside Dublin.

Mr Higgins and a number of other left-wing TDs had use a portion of the €1,000 a month allowance available to Dublin TDs to cover their expenses in travelling to anti-water charge meetings.