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Oireachtas members paid €764k allowances for month without sittings

224 of the 226 members of the Dáil and Seanad were paid allowances in August, even though both houses were in recess.

The Dáil chamber lay empty for all of August - though TDs still received just over €600,000 in allowances for the month.
The Dáil chamber lay empty for all of August - though TDs still received just over €600,000 in allowances for the month.

TDS AND SENATORS received travel and allowances of over three quarter of a million euro in parliamentary allowances in August – a month in which neither the Dáil or Seanad held any sittings.

Records published by the Houses of the Oireachtas show 224 of the 226 members of either house received payments totalling €764,101.84 under the Parliamentary Standard Allowances scheme in August, despite their being no meetings of the Dáil, Seanad or any Oireachtas committee.

Attendance records also published by the Houses of the Oireachtas show that the 226 members were present at Leinster House for a total of 547 days in August – an average of just 2.42 days per member.

Fine Gael TD Noel Harrington, who lives the farthest distance from Leinster House of any member of the Oireachtas, received the highest allowance of €5,295.84 – though attendance records do not record him signing in to Leinster House on any date in August.

Independent deputy Michael Healy-Rae is next, receiving €5,233.84 for August. He is recorded as having been in Leinster House for five days in August.

26 TDs received over €5,000

A total of 26 deputies received over €5,000 in allowances for the month. Each of them is recorded as having opted for ‘vouched’ expenses – meaning they are entitled to a higher monthly allowance, in return for making themselves available for audit. Only a tenth of members claiming ‘vouched’ expenses are liable for an audit of their spending, however.

The highest allowance recipient who does not vouch for their expenses – meaning their spending is not open to question – is Fine Gael’s Michael Creed, who is entitled to a higher band of expenses given his commuting distance from Macroom in north-west Cork. He received €4,279.17 in August.

Only two members – NUI senator Prof John Crown, and Labour TD Eamonn Maloney of Dublin South-West – are recorded as having declined their allowances for August.

The Parliamentary Standard Allowance also includes payments to cover the cost of running parliamentary offices and conducting constituency business, so it is possible for members to legitimately incur expenses while the Oireachtas is in recess.

Oireachtas allowance systems mean the payments are made to members in advance of them incurring any potential travel expenses. Members are expected to return any unused expenses at the end of the year. In 2011, about a third of TDs returned some allowances.

Ministers and junior ministers are not entitled to travel expenses from the Oireachtas, as these are covered by their government departments – but each is entitled to a flat rate of either €1,666.67 (for vouched) or €1,000 (for unvouched) per month to cover the cost of running constituency offices.

18 ministers opt for the higher rate of vouched expenses, while 12 – including eight of the 15 ‘senior’ ministers – choose the lower unvouched rate.

The full allowance records for August 2012 can be found here for TDs, and here for Senators.

Read: This is how much your TD claimed in expenses in 2011 >

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Gavan Reilly

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