A Minister of State submitted receipts from leading restaurants near Leinster House as part of "expenditure on policy formulation" permitted under State funding of TDs.
Seán Canney, who has responsibility for community development, natural resources and digital development, detailed the expenditure from last year as part of an annual disclosure to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo).
Sipo on Wednesday published its annual returns for the parliamentary activities allowance, which was formerly known as the party leader's allowance. (Read full details of the parliamentary activities allowance here)
It is a payment made to a party leader “in relation to expenses arising from parliamentary activities, including research”. It is paid per TD and Senator in each party, but Independent TDs are also entitled to an allowance.
An Independent TD is entitled to €37,097 per year, with non-party Senators allowed claim €21,045 annually. The money can be spent on technical or specialist advice, research and training, policy formulation, consultants’ services, polling or other public attitude sampling and entertainment.
Under “expenditure on policy formulation”, Mr Canney listed different amounts spent in restaurants such as Bang Restaurant (€140); the Sussex Restaurant (€208); Matt the Thresher (€332); Le Pain Quotidien (€83); The Ivy (€92); La Cave (€86) and Fire Restaurant (€122).
Cré na Cille: €874
Two separate amounts are listed for a "Cré na Cille": one for €874 and another for €48. There is a restaurant called Cré na Cille in Mr Canney's hometown of Tuam, Co Galway.
Mr Canney, a Galway East TD, also listed policy expenditure for the Hodson Bay Hotel in Athlone (€182), Buswells Hotel beside Leinster House (€40), the Corralea Court Hotel (€26), the Houses of the Oireachtas (€570), Finn's Restaurant (€330), Kennedy Pubs (€68.40), O'Grady's (€39.90) and the Loughrea Spa (€12.50).
Under expenditure for research and training, Mr Canney paid Jacqueline Milton €21,204 and Maire Acton Mannion €11,109. For consultants' services, RT Hughes was paid €6,300 and Noel Tyrell €430. In the entertainment category, Lackagh Group was paid €387 for a function for 30 people, with another group paid €475 for entertainment for a group of 25 people.
Mr Canney did not return calls or requests for comment. He was appointed to his current position by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in October 2018.
He previously held the position of minister of state with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, but relinquished the post as part of a rotation arrangement with fellow Independent TD Kevin “Boxer” Moran.
Mr Moran and Mr Canney made an agreement to rotate the position between them when the Fine Gael-led minority administration took office in May 2016. They decided by way of coin toss that Mr Canney should take the job first for one year. Mr Moran then took it June 2017.
Mr Canney had pushed for the post to return to him a year later but lost out in an internal Independent Alliance row and left the group in May 2018.
Expenditure listed for other Independent TDs by Sipo include Finian McGrath, the Minister of State with responsibility for Disability Issues, paying €22,755 to polling company Red C for "constituency research".
When contacted, Mr McGrath said this was for a number of polls “on other issues like disability, housing, health and Repeal the Eighth as well as political polling”.
He said he had polled public attitudes on various issues and found disabilities did not feature in the public’s top priorities, as they were dominated by housing, tax, Brexit and health.
Minister for Transport Shane Ross spent €10,639 on "attitude sampling".