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Joe Higgins Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Higgins slams 'manufactured controversy' over use of TDs expenses

Independent TD Thomas Pringle said that he did not use expenses to travel around the country to urge people to boycott the household charge as other independent deputies have done.

SOCIALIST PARTY TD Joe Higgins has criticised what he said was a “manufactured controversy” by the owners of the Irish Independent newspaper to undermine him and other TDs advocating a boycott of the household charge.

He was speaking as the chair the Oireachtas Committee on Members’ Interests has called for clarity on the issue of TDs claiming expenses for costs incurred while travelling to and from meetings around the country urging a boycott of the household charge.

Thomas Pringle’s comments this morning came after more controversy about some independent TDs’ use of their travel allowance for the purpose of attending meetings across the country.

The Irish Independent reports that while Socialist Party TDs Joe Higgins and Clare Daly as well as People Before Profit TD Joan Collins believed they were entitled to do this, fellow TD Richard Boyd-Barrett had stated he had been told he could not by Oireachtas authorities.

Higgins said that the stories carried in the Irish Independent today and yesterday were an attempt to “damage us, to try to suggest impropriety in the most disgusting and underhand fashion”, he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

He cited Oireachtas regulations, specifically statutory instrument 84/2010 which he said entitled him to use travel allowances for the purpose of travelling to meetings urging a boycott of the €100 tax.

The regulation states that a TD is entitled to claim for “travel expenses which the member is obliged to incur in the performance of his or her duties as a member of Dáil Éireann”.

On the same programme Pringle would not condemn his Dáil Technical Group colleagues for using expenses to encourage people not to pay the €100 tax.

But he said that there needed to be clarity from Oireachtas authorities and called for a vouched system of expenses.

“I don’t know for certain but I understood that the travel expenses paid to the TDs were for travelling through the constituency and for travel to and from Dáil Eireann to attend the Dáil as well,” he said of his interpretation of the rules.

The Houses of the Oireachtas have so far been unable to confirm whether or not there is an issue with the actions of the three United Left Alliance TDs.

Yesterday, Joe Higgins said that it was “absolutely justifiable” to use travel allowances for the purposes of attending meetings across the country urging people to boycott the household charge as part of the campaign against water and property taxes.

Pringle said that he did not use any of his travel expenses to attend meetings around the country.

“It didn’t enter my head… I filed an expenses claim form for travel from the constituency to the Dail and travel around the constituency and that’s the only claim for expenses I have made since becoming a TD,” he said.

The Donegal TD said that deputies should submit a monthly claim in relation to costs incurred for journeys they have made which he believes would stop the confusion surrounding the current rules.

“When there isn’t clarity in the system and it’s not clear exactly what the expenses should be intended for and should be used for it can lead to the situations maybe like this where this confusion can arise.

“So I think that really the only solution is to have clarity on it and to have a vouched system,” he added.

‘Absolutely justifiable’ to use allowances for boycott campaign – Higgins

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