Bradford questions allowance for party members

Five Labour Senators defy party whip in chaotic row over committee membership

“I am not sure of the legality of party allowances being retained for members who are no longer in their parties,” says Senator Paul Bradford. Photograph: Alan Betson

“I am not sure of the legality of party allowances being retained for members who are no longer in their parties,” says Senator Paul Bradford. Photograph: Alan Betson

Sat, Jul 20, 2013, 01:00



Rebel Fine Gael Senator Paul Bradford has questioned the legality of political parties retaining up to €500,000 annually for TDs and Senators no longer in the parliamentary party. He said the money should be returned to the Exchequer.

His comments came amid chaotic Seanad scenes in a row over removing Mr Bradford, Fidelma Healy-Eames and former Labour Senator James Heffernan from Oireachtas committees.

Five Labour Senators defied the party whip and abstained in a vote on a motion changing the membership after Labour Senator John Kelly refused to accept his nomination to the European Affairs Committee to replace Mr Heffernan, who defected months ago.

Mr Kelly criticised the “bullyboy tactics” used in replacing Senators. The Co Roscommon Senator said he fundamentally disagreed that “TDs and Senators are expected to park their conscience at the front door of Leinster House”.

The Government won by 22 votes to 11 after Fianna Fáil Senators walked out. They said they were going to seek legal advice on the matter.

Mr Bradford said he was not concerned about his removal from the justice committee and the Seanad committee on privileges and procedures but “I am not sure of the legality of party allowances being retained for members who are no longer in their parties”.

Political parties receive funding for each TD and Senator, and Mr Bradford said 10 TDs and three Senators “had now left their political parties” and “some €500,000 will be handed over to political parties for individuals who are no longer members”.

Parties keep the allowance they receive for TDs and Senators for the life of the Dáil and Seanad they were elected to.

In the row over committee membership Mr Kelly received a round of applause from the Opposition when he said he was honoured to be nominated but “I wasn’t aware of the circumstances as to how the vacancy arose”.

“So, on the basis of that I’m not prepared to take that position, I want to ask the leader to have me formally removed.”

Fianna Fáil Seanad leader Darragh O’Brien said “it doesn’t make sense” to vote on a motion naming a Senator as a member of a committee he did not wish to be on. He called for the vote to be delayed until the afternoon while they sought legal advice but was refused.

The move to replace the rebel Senators from the committees set aside standing orders and bypassed the Committee of Selection for Seanad Éireann, chaired by Denis O’Donovan (FF).

Mr O’Donovan described the Government’s move as being “like a diktat from the Politburo, a kitchen cabinet in a kangaroo court or a firing squad to get rid of certain people”. It was an “abuse” to set aside standing orders.

Cathaoirleach Paddy Burke said the House made its own rules.