Parties and politicians received €20m expenses


POLITICAL PARTIES and independent parliamentarians received more than €20 million in expenses and allowances in 2011, according to official records.

In addition, every political party in the Dáil received allowances to employ Oireachtas-based secretaries and administrators to staff political offices.

An examination of annual figures compiled by the Oireachtas and by the Standard in Public Office Commission shows the parties received some €12.6 million in exchequer funding in 2011, comprised of the party leaders’ allowance as well as funding under the Electoral Acts.

The main beneficiary was Fine Gael which received almost €5 million in public funding with Fianna Fáil receiving slightly over €3 million. The Labour Party received €2.8 million. The reason it received lower funding than the smaller Fianna Fáil party was because, as a government party, it receives additional supports not available to opposition parties.

Sinn Féin received €1.6 million.

In addition, the 166 TDs and 60 Senators claimed almost €8 million in travel and administrative expenses under funding arrangements introduced three years ago.

It comes as two Sinn Féin TDs said last night they had spoken to senior Oireachtas officials about their use of unused travel and subsistence allowances to employ staff in their constituencies.

Donegal South West TD Pearse Doherty and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn from the neighbouring Donegal South East confirmed yesterday that unused portions of their travel expenses had been used to take on additional staff in their constituencies. Both said they had been open about the practice and had done it in good faith, although it appeared it was in breach of the rules. Mr Doherty posted details on his website while Mr Mac Lochlainn made a public statement on the matter in his constituency earlier this year.

Both TDs sought a meeting with the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission. Yesterday they met a senior official in the Oireachtas responsible for the administration of all payments and expenses.

The party said last night in a statement: “This official has noted the questions asked by the deputies regarding their use of their travel and accommodation allowances. At this time their queries are being considered and have not yet been answered.”

The statement said if any irregularity was discovered, the TDs would rectify it by repaying the amounts involved – some €8,000 for each.