Eight politicians swear statements to receive full expenses for lockdown period

Pandemic saw fobbing-in facility for recording attendance of Senators and TDs halted

A fobbing-in system which records politician’s attendance at Leinster House was suspended between March and July during the first period of Covid-19 restrictions. Photograph: Alan Betson

A fobbing-in system which records politician’s attendance at Leinster House was suspended between March and July during the first period of Covid-19 restrictions. Photograph: Alan Betson

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Eight TDs and Senators have sworn a statement before a peace commissioner or commissioner of oaths to say they were present in the Dáil or Seanad during the last lockdown to receive their full expenses.

A fobbing-in system which records politician’s attendance was suspended between March and July during the first period of Covid-19 restrictions.

Members of the Oireachtas need to have attended the Dáil or Seanad for at least 108 days this year to receive their full travel and accommodation allowance. Those who have been present for fewer than 108 days are docked 1 per cent for each day they fall short.

Information provided by the Oireachtas to The Irish Times shows that the following TDs submitted witnessed declarations: Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim Marc MacSharry, Independent TD for Louth Peter Fitzpatrick, Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow John Brady, Sinn Féin TD for Donegal Padraig MacLochlainn, Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid-West Mark Ward and Sinn Féin TD for Kerry Pa Daly. Independent Senator Michael McDowell and super junior Green Party Minister Pippa Hackett also swore a statement, according to Oireachtas records.

Recorded presence

Ms Hackett said: “My recorded attendance in my role as Senator during lockdown, up until June 27th when I was appointed as a Minister of State, was submitted as requested by the Houses of the Oireachtas. I was in attendance in Dublin for much of the preparations and durations of the Government formation talks. There was no fobbing-in facility during this time.”

Sinn Féin TD Pa Daly said he “attended Leinster House for two appearances at the Covid-19 committee to discuss the crisis for tourism in Kerry and issues surrounding the direct provision centre in Caherciveen”.

He said he also attended on two other days for scheduled debates on the Offences Against the State Act.

Shortest route

Travel and accommodation allowance rates are based on the distance from the politician’s normal place of residence to Leinster House by the shortest practicable route.

They are worth €9,000 annually to a Dublin TD and up to €34,065 for those living more than 360km away. Dublin Senators may receive €5,250 while Senators living more than 360km away may receive €29,565.

Oireachtas office holders, excluding the Ceann Comhairle, are paid an allowance ranging from €6,300 per year for those based in Dublin to €32,535 per annum for those 360km or more from Leinster House.

The Ceann Comhairle can avail of an annual overnight allowance of up to €14,715.

Despite signing the statement in order to receive the full expenses that they are entitled to, some TDs or Senators may still be docked money as they may still not meet the required 108 days attendance.