THE 60 MEMBERS of Seanad Éireann received just under €2 million in travel and office expenses and allowances in 2012, new figures have revealed.
Figures compiled by TheJournal.ie – based on monthly releases from the Houses of the Oireachtas – show the 60 members receiving a cumulative total of €1,961,674 across their twelve months in office.
The payments include a travel allowance, based on the commuting distance from each member’s home to Leinster House, and a flat-rate ‘public representation’ allowance to cover the costs of running a constituency office.
Fianna Fáil’s Mark Daly received the highest payments of any member in 2012, being paid a total of €47,106 for the year – the equivalent of over 70 per cent of his basic Seanad salary of €65,621 - though this can be put down to his commute from Kenmare, Co Kerry, which is among the longest of any senator.
His Kerry colleague, Fine Gael’s Tom Sheahan is the next-highest claimant, receiving a total of €45,594 to cover his commute from Rathmore.
The Seanad’s Leas-Cathaoirleach, Denis O’Donovan of Fianna Fáil – who has the longest commute of any Senator, being based in Bantry, Co Cork – is the third-highest recipient. His office entitles him to a higher rate of allowances than other members, meaning a total of €45,400 for the year.
- Allowances in full: Click here to see our interactive spreadsheet showing exactly what each Senator got in 2012 >
At the other end of the scale, Professor John Crown from the NUI constituency declined to take any allowances for the year. Crown, a consultant oncologist, has already said he donates his Seanad salary to cancer research, believing it is inappropriate for him to claim two public salaries.
Fiach Mac Conghail, one of the 11 senators appointed by the Taoiseach, accepts only a third of his entitlements and was given a total of €4,000 over the year; NUI senator Feargal Quinn also opts against receiving his full amount, and received €8,542 – just over half of the amount he is entitled to.
The records published by the Oireachtas are incomplete for now; members are given some time to return any unused allowances, with a final annual total – including the amounts returned – not likely to be published until May or June.
Senators much more likely not to ‘vouch’
Although Senators who opt to vouch for their ‘public representation allowance’ are entitled to a higher allowance than those who don’t – with unvouched members getting €9,250 a year, and vouched members €15,000 – a large cohort of Senators opt for the unvouched model.
While this means they receive a smaller allowance payment than their colleagues, it also means they are not subject to an audit – or, indeed, any kind of oversight about how their allowance is spent.
Those who opt to vouch for their allowances are required to keep receipts proving that it has been spent meeting only the appropriate costs. One tenth of all TDs and Senators who vouch for their expenses are required to undergo a random audit conducted for the Oireachtas by auditing firm Mazars.
44 of the 60 Senators opt for the unvouched model – including 17 of Fine Gael’s 20 members, 10 out of Fianna Fáil’s 14, and eight out of Labour’s 12.
Only one of the three Sinn Féin senators opted for the unvouched model last year, while all but two of the independent members (the aforementioned Crown and Mac Conghail) took the unvouched option.
While any Senator who fails to show up at Leinster House on 120 days is required to forfeit some of their allowance, this did not apply to any of the 60 senators in 2012, each of whom fulfilled the minimum attendance requirements.