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Dublin: 3 °C Saturday 16 November, 2019

Ash cloud TDs granted expenses they never incurred

Four TDs stranded abroad are given permission to declare themselves ‘present’ in Leinster House – and claim expenses.

Four TDs and one senator were stranded abroad due to flight cancellations after the Eyjafjallajokull ash cloud.
Four TDs and one senator were stranded abroad due to flight cancellations after the Eyjafjallajokull ash cloud.
Image: Brynjar Gauti/AP

THE CEANN COMHAIRLE has granted four TDs permission to declare themselves as ‘present’ for the Dáil’s sitting days they missed as a result of the volcanic ash cloud – allowing them to claim travel expenses for those days, despite their not even being in Ireland at the time.

The four TDs – one from Fianna Fáil (former Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue) and three from Fine Gael (James Reilly, Jim O’Keeffe and Bernard Allen) – all wrote to the Ceann Comhairle, Seamus Kirk, seeking his permission that they declare themselves ‘present’ for Monday April 19 to Thursday April 22, according to documents obtained by RTÉ News.

The Ceann Comhairle assented to each of the four requests, thus clearing the way for the Dail record to be amended for the aforementioned days to mark the four TDs as being present.

While the TDs would not have lost any any of their salaries for their absences, TDs are required to sign in their attendance in Leinster House for a minimum number of days each year in order to be allowed to claim the maximum amount payable in travel expenses, under new expenses arrangements brought in seven months ago – ironically, in response to the expenses incurred by O’Donoghue while in office.

O’Donoghue wrote to Kirk saying he had taken a short break abroad and had intended to return to Ireland on Friday April 16, according to the Irish Times, but had been unable to travel after flights were cancelled due to the ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajokull eruption in Iceland.

Jim O’Keeffe wrote that he and his wife had visited their daughter in Bangkok for Easter, and had been stranded abroad, while Bernard Allen was stuck in Portugal.

The Irish Independent reports that Fine Gael senator Larry Burke, who was on holiday in Spain, was also granted permission to declare himself ‘absent’.

TDs have become keen to record positive attendance records, it adds, because they are to be published in a ‘league table’ at the end of the year.

James Reilly, meanwhile, wrote that he had been returning from pro bono work in Haiti with Concern and had been unable to return.

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Gavan Reilly

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