TDs 'broke Dáil allowances rule'
A number of politicians who used special Dáil allowances to fund nationwide travel to fight the €100 household charge have been breaking the rules, it has been confirmed.
Socialist Party TDs Joe Higgins and Clare Daly and United Left Alliance’s Joan Collins have admitted using the automatic mileage and transport payment for their anti-government campaign.
An Oireachtas oversight body has revealed it never envisaged constituency travel allowances would be used in this way.
Rules on travel and accommodation entitlements — €12,000 a year for every Dublin TD — say members must certify the money covered transport from their home or temporary accommodation to work in Leinster House.
In a statement, the Houses of the Oireachtas said: “The service had never envisaged that the travel and accommodation allowance would allow deputies to travel outside of their constituencies, except for journeys to and from Leinster House.
“It is currently seeking legal advice to clarify the position.”
A team of in-house legal experts is examining the rules and regulations on TDs’ and senators’ expenses to assess if the politicians were in breach.
It is understood Richard Boyd-Barrett was told not to state that his travel allowance was being used to cover the cost of attending events outside his constituency.
However a separate payment system, the public representation allowance (PRA), says TDs can claim under this for “attendance at conferences relating to the performance of his or her duties as a member (except expenses relating to travel)”.
Mr Higgins, Ms Daly and Ms Collins this evening welcomed the statement on travel allowances but insisted they felt they were justified in admitting that the money paid helped fund travel around the country.
“Should the legal advice state that TDs’ travel allowance is only for use within their constituency or between the constituency and Leinster House, we will require the Government and the Oireachtas Commission to look at the following major anomaly,” they said.
The TDs said smaller parties are being frozen out of public funding based on their share of first preference votes at the election.
They said that in 2011, Fine Gael was paid €1.9 million, Labour €1.03 million and Fianna Fáil €1.6 million.
“According to the legislation these parties are free to use that public funding for ‘co-ordination of the activities and members of the party’ i.e. for the organisation and building of their parties. Smaller parties that do not qualify for public funding based on their first preference vote would therefore be at a serious disadvantage,” they said.
Some 700,000 property owners have yet to pay the household charge and face a “three strikes and it’s court” system. Two red reminder letters will be sent before a third threatens legal action.