Manner in which smaller parties' TDs used expenses to be examined

Tue, Jul 3, 2012, 01:00

TWO OFFICIAL bodies have confirmed they will check the manner in which a portion of the salaries and expenses of TDs from smaller parties have been used to fund the parties and their campaigns.

But the leading representative of one of the parties under scrutiny, Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party, has strongly rejected any suggestion his party has not abided by the rules governing donations, and travel and subsistence. He maintained his party has been in full compliance with all the rules and angrily denounced what he described as a “manufactured campaign of smear and vilification” against his party.

Mr Higgins, his colleague Clare Daly and Joan Collins of People Before Profit have all confirmed that part of their respective €1,000 monthly allowances for travel and subsistence as Dublin-based TDs has been used to offset travelling expenses outside the capital as part of campaigns against household charges and water taxes.

A spokesman for the Oireachtas said yesterday that officials were examining the rules in relation to those expenses, to ascertain if the journeys to meetings throughout Ireland were covered by the rules.

Separately, the Standards in Public Office Commission yesterday said it had written to the Socialist Party seeking information about its policy of using part of TDs’ and MEP Paul Murphy’s salaries to fund party work.

There are limits to the amount an individual can donate to a political party, irrespective of whether he or she is a TD, Senator or MEP. The party has not made public the arrangement it has come to with its TDs. However, Mr Higgins, Ms Daly and Mr Murphy all declared they had donated more than €6,000 each to the party last year. That is close to the allowable limit.

Mr Higgins said last night that the commission had no role in this controversy as it dealt with donations and not expenses – the Dublin West TD said he and his two elected colleagues were fully in compliance with the Acts and regulations underlining the commission’s work. He also accused Independent Newspapers, which first reported on the party’s travel costs, of conducting a campaign of vilification against it and against left-wing parties.

He argued that the statutory instrument that established the new regime in 2010 had given an allowance of €1,000 per month to Dublin-based TDs for travel and subsistence. He said the provisions referred to the expenses covering travel from their normal place of residence to and from Leinster House. He said the allowance also covers “overnight expenses which the member is obliged to incur in the performance of his or her duties” and maintained this covered countrywide travel.