Eight politicians denied full allowance over poor attendance

The TDs and Senators did not attend Dáil or Seanad for the required minimum of days

Solidarity-People Before Profit Mick Barry. File photograph: Collins

Solidarity-People Before Profit Mick Barry. File photograph: Collins

 

Eight members of the Oireachtas were denied the full amount of one of their annual allowances last year because of their poor attendance record at Leinster House.

An analysis of expenses paid out in 2018 by the Houses of the Oireachtas reveals six TDs and a Senator were paid less than the standard travel and accommodation allowance (TAA) for not attending the Dáil or Seanad for the required minimum of 120 days.

The six TDs are Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty and Jonathan O’Brien; Solidarity-People Before Profit’s Mick Barry and Gino Kenny; Thomas Pringle of Independents4Change; and Independent TD from Clare Michael Harty. The Senator is Independent Pádraig Ó Céidigh.

Another Senator, Ian Marshall – who was elected to the Seanad in April 2018 – failed to achieve a reduced required-attendance level of 82 days.

The Houses of the Oireachtas said refunds totalling just over €9,737 were repaid by the eight members who did not achieve their full recorded attendance.

The TAA is based on the distance travelled from their normal residence by Oireachtas members to Leinster House and ranges from €9,000 to members based in Dublin up to €34,065 for those in band 12 who live more than 360km away.

Members must repay 1 per cent of the allowance for each day less than the required number attended, while TDs and Senators can also voluntarily choose not to accept the full allowance.

Total paid

Figures published by the Houses of the Oireachtas show a total of more than €7.6 million was paid in allowances to Oireachtas members last year, including more than €4 million in TAA.

Another €3.6 million was paid out in the public representative allowance (PRA) which covers other expenses including office rent and equipment.

TDs are entitled to a vouched maximum allowance of €20,350 per annum, while the PRA for Ministers or Ministers of State is €16,000 and €12,225 for Senators.

Politicians who spend less than the allowance must return any unspent monies. In 2018 a total of 47 members repaid €156,531, while 11 opted to waive some or all of their allowance.

The biggest amount of TAA refunded last year was almost €3,460 by Mick Barry, whose attendance was more than 11 days below the required minimum.

The Cork North Central TD said he had taken the “political decision” to spend the best part of the Repeal the Eighth campaign in his own constituency to try and ensure the amendment was passed.

“It’s a simple explanation but I made sure I still attended key Dáil debates and votes,” he said.

Five days

Mr Pringle, who fell five days below the attendance threshold, said this was because he had chosen to stay at home in Killybegs, Co Donegal, to be with his daughter while she was doing her Leaving Certificate exams.

Mr Harty, who fell short of the threshold by four days, cited difficulties in getting another doctor to work in his medical practice.

“I am a single-handed GP in Co Clare. Getting locum cover is difficult and sometimes impossible, particularly in rural Ireland. There were occasions when I was unable to cover the practice and thus missed some Dáil days,” Dr Harty said.

The other four politicians who did not achieve the minimum of 120 days attendance at Leinster House did not respond to a request for comment.

All missed the required attendance record by between one and five days.

Mr Kenny, a TD for Dublin Mid-West, who refunded the Houses of the Oireachtas €360 after missing four days, only claims half his annual TAA of €9,000.

Mr Marshall, a unionist and former president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, said he did not have to meet the 120-day requirement last year as he was only a Senator for eight months after winning a byelection in April 2018.

One of the TDs affected is Pearse Doherty, above. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
One of the TDs affected is Pearse Doherty, above. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Mr Marshall from Markethill, Co Armagh, did not respond to a request for further comment after it was pointed out that his attendance for 76 days fell short of a reduced attendance requirement of 82 days.

Waived

Last year, four other TDs and one Senator opted to waive some or all of their TAA. They included Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin and Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan, who voluntarily waived their full annual allowance of €9,000, and Labour Senator Ivana Bacik who waived her entitlement to a TAA of €5,250.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith and Fianna Fáil TD Pat “the Cope” Gallagher waived a portion of their TAA.

A further €698 of TAA was repaid voluntarily by Solidarity TDs Paul Murphy and Ruth Coppinger.

The TAA does not apply to Ministers or Ministers of State.