Senator Billy Lawless can net nearly €30,000 in expenses

Chicago-based appointee denies cronyism concerning internship for Kenny’s daughter

Billy Lawless: Said he had not worked out the logistics of how he would attend sittings, or what the expenses would be. Photograph: The Irish Times

Billy Lawless: Said he had not worked out the logistics of how he would attend sittings, or what the expenses would be. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Chicago-based Billy Lawless will be entitled to a total of €29,565 in travel and accommodation expenses under current Oireachtas rules, despite the new Senator being based 5,000km from Dublin.

The Galway-born businessman was one of Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s nominees to the upper House last Friday, becoming in effect Ireland’s first “diaspora” Senator.

Mr Lawless said yesterday he had not worked out the logistics of how he would attend sittings, or what the expenses would be.

However, under current rules, if Mr Lawless states his residence as Chicago, his expenses will be classified as band 12, which is for TDs and Senators who live more than 360km from Leinster House.

Flights

An Oireachtas spokesman confirmed Mr Lawless’s residence would be classified as band 12.

When the new protocols were being drawn up several years ago, they were designed for parliamentarians either living in the State or on the island of Ireland.

The only TDs and Senators who currently qualify for band 12 are those who live on the southwest seaboard, either in west Cork or southwest Kerry.

West Cork-based Independent deputy Michael Collins, from Schull, and Fianna Fáil Senator Denis O’Donovan, from Bantry, are both in band 12.

As of now, it is not known how often Mr Lawless will attend Seanad hearings.

The cheapest Aer Lingus flights from Chicago to Dublin during the summer months are €900, with prices ranging considerably for more flexible tickets. During the winter, economy flights fall to €700.

Earlier yesterday, Mr Lawless portrayed accusations of cronyism made against him for giving the Taoiseach’s daughter Aoibhinn a J1 job as “absolutely ridiculous”.

“I get 50 to 60 calls every year from Ireland about J1 students coming over. It’s nothing new,” he said on Newstalk radio.

He said Aoibhinn Kenny was lucky and she was one of first ones to apply.

Delighted

He said he knew her and “why wouldn’t you look after a friend’s daughter”?

Mr Lawless, who is co-chair of the National Democratic Immigrant Council in the US, said the first he heard of his Seanad appointment was a phone call last Friday afternoon. “The Taoiseach asked me if I would serve, I said I would be delighted.”

In the 1980s, he was chair of Fine Gael in the Galway West constituency and stood unsuccessfully for Galway City Council in 1991.