What TDs earn: the extras
THE SALARY for a member of Dáil Éireann is €92,672 and that for a Senator €65,621. It’s not bad money in the current climate, but the focus of public resentment in recent days is the expenses and allowances that go with the jobs, especially at a time when other public-sector allowances are under scrutiny.
A Dublin-based TD could have a package worth almost €200,000, including unvouched expenses and two secretaries or parliamentary assistants at a combined salary of €70,000, in the first year after election. With vouched expenses he or she could be pulling in about €210,000. If the TD lived in a far-flung district of Co Kerry, extra travel expenses would bring the figure to about €235,000 – and if the deputy were an Independent there would be €41,152 on top of that, making a total of about €276,000 before tax.
This week the clerk of the Dáil, Kieran Coughlan, suggested that Oireachtas allowances, which are currently subject to policy decisions by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin, should be overseen by an independent body.
Coughlan told the Committee of Public Accounts that the total spending on members’ expenses this year will be about €11.7 million, or 11 per cent of the parliamentary budget – and that this figure, combined with just under €20 million on salaries, “represents a tiny fraction – one-thousandth – of total State expenditure for 2012”.
All 166 members of the Dáil and 60 Senators are eligible to receive a public representation allowance, but Ministers, who get tax relief on a second home if they live outside Dublin, do not receive the travel and accommodation allowance.
The travel allowance is paid to members in bands based on the distance to Leinster House from their “normal place of residence”. It covers the cost of travel to and from parliament, overnight stays and, for TDs, other travel expenses. Senators are paid a lower amount, with no allowances for constituency travel.
Questions were raised recently when Joe Higgins, the Socialist Party TD, was allowed expenses for travelling around the State to promote the anti-household-charge campaign. Attorney General Máire Whelan SC told Howlin this was a legitimate claim, but the clerk of the Dáil told the Committee of Public Accounts this week that the allowance “was always to apply to a Deputy going to and from Leinster House and around his or her constituency”.
If they live less than 25km from the Oireachtas, TDs are allowed €12,000 and Senators €7,000. There are 12 bands, paying different rates, the maximum being for distances of 360km or more – in those cases TDs can claim €37,850 and Senators €32,850.
The public representation allowance is payable to all members (including Ministers and Oireachtas office-holders). Members can opt for either the certified unvouched amount or the fully vouched amount. Members opting for the vouched amount must retain receipts for the full sum claimed and may be audited. Currently, TDs can claim€15,000 unvouched or €25,700 vouched; Ministers and Ministers of State can claim €12,000 unvouched or €20,000 vouched; and Senators can claim €9,250 unvouched or €15,000 vouched.