Minister preparing review of State allowances received by Independent TDs and Senators
PROPOSALS ON State allowances paid to Independent TDs and Senators are to be brought to Government shortly by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin.
Mr Howlin, who is also reviewing the State allowances paid to political parties, told the Dáil that Independent TDs currently received €41,152 annually while Senators got €23,383.
“Any changes proposed following that review will require primary legislation, which is currently being prepared,” he said.
Mr Howlin rejected a suggestion by Independent Wicklow TD Stephen Donnelly that State funding be paid directly to all TDs.
Mr Howlin said such a system would “fracture the basis of our political system and I, for one, am not keen to pursue it”.
Mr Donnelly argued it would be a healthier system. “Power, authority and the democratic mandate are vested in each of us as members of Dáil Éireann,” he added.
He said TDs opting to be members of political parties could contribute a portion of their resources to them.
“The Constitution does not vest the democratic mandate in parties,” he added. Mr Howlin said he did not accept Mr Donnelly’s argument, adding that they came from very different traditions. He had joined a political party to drive the agenda to which he subscribed.
“We debate democratically within the party and attend national conferences which provide a space for input from our membership . . . I do not come to this House as a sole trader.”
Mr Howlin said that following a major review, a new system of expense allowances payable to Oireachtas members was introduced in 2010. He had also reduced the number of pre-paid envelopes members received.
Mr Donnelly welcomed the vouching of the party leader’s allowance. “It is extraordinary that I am allowed unvouched payments and I do not think I should.”
He said the resources provided to Independent TDs were a fraction of those paid to TDs in political parties. “For example, Independent deputies receive one-fourth of the amount paid to Fianna Fáil deputies.”
Mr Howlin said it was incorrect to say Fianna Fáil TDs were receiving multiples of what was paid to Independents. As an Independent TD, Mr Donnelly personally received €41,152. The first 10 Fianna Fáil TDs received €71,000, which was less than twice that paid to Independent TDs. The 11 to 30 received €57,000 each and above 30 the figure was €28,000.
“The idea behind this system is that the demands on a major Opposition party, in terms of fronting parliament and analysing major national events, are different from the work of an Independent deputy,” said Mr Howlin.
Mr Donnelly said that when one added the party leader’s allowance to the funding provided through the various Acts, public funding to political parties, such as Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil, was several times that paid to Independent TDs on a per capital basis.