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Enda Kenny: Sinn Féin expenses north of the border 'off the richter scale'

His comments came after BBC Spotlight revealed that Sinn Féin MLAs claimed almost £700,000 for research purposes in the last decade.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Updated: 6.25pm

THE TAOISEACH HAS criticised expenses made by Sinn Féin politicians in Northern Ireland, describing them as “off the richter scale”.

Enda Kenny made the comments after BBC’s Spotlight NI programme revealed that Sinn Féin MLAs have claimed nearly £700,000 (about €884,000) in expenses for research from a company run by the party’s finance managers.

Over the past 10 years, 36 different Sinn Féin politicians claimed about £700,000 in total through Stormont expenses to pay Research Services Ireland (RSI). Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness claimed £42,000 over the decade.

The company is run by Seamus Drumm and Sinead Walsh, who run Sinn Féin’s finance department in Northern Ireland.

Enda Kenny raised the issue with Gerry Adams in the Dáil today.

Spotlight was unable to find any evidence of research that had been carried out by RSI.

The BBC reported that police were alerted to concerns about expenses claims made by Sinn Féin for work done by the company five years ago. They deemed an investigation was not necessary after meeting with two Assembly officials. The party’s biggest claims for payment to RSI were made after that date.

Traditional Ulster Voice leader Jim Allister told the BBC he would be writing to the chief constable about the issue.

“The siphoning of public money by Sinn Fein to an apparently bogus research company must be thoroughly investigated, along with potential forgery,” Allister stated.

A spokesperson for Sinn Féin denied that the party had done anything wrong, noting that it “makes available our accounts north and south”.

We are fully compliant with all revenue, Assembly and electoral commission rules.

The spokesperson told TheJournal.ie that RSI was founded by Sinn Féin as an associated company following the setting up of the Northern Assembly in 1998, and in consultation with the Finance Department of the Assembly and the Inland Revenue.

He said that RSI was a non-profit company and “proved to be a highly effective vehicle for fulfilling the research and administration backup required by the Sinn Féin Assembly team”.

RSI ceased to function in January 2014, as the party no longer deemed it to be necessary following an independent financial review.

Spotlight also examined expenses claims made by the DUP. The Police Service of Northern Ireland is currently investigating the issues raised by the programme.

Steven Agnew, the leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, has called for a independent inquiry.

“Too often political parties and individual MLAs dance on the head of pin when it comes to their expenses. Even when they are not technically breaking any laws or agreements, they are often not acting in the spirit of regulations of public finance,” Agnew said.

Originally published: 5.16pm

Enda and Gerry are still rowing about Sinn Féin’s involvement in a water protest on Monday

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Órla Ryan

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