The Dáil Expenses Scandals

A story of great Importance
 
The Great Political Representation Expense Scandal
There once was a man of great importance to the Country. He lived in the capital city as he could be called upon to represent the fair people of the land at a moment’s notice. But this man of great importance also had a residence about 370 kilometres away (in order to reach the top band for travel expenses one has to live beyond 360km from the Senate) and it was there that he resided for the purposes of travelling up to represent the people. This man of great importance could not fathom what he had done wrong when others questioned him about his trips up from this distant land, when he had a house out the road, to which he had all his letters addressed.   The man of great importance responded that he had ‘done nothing wrong’ and this became his mantra during the inquiry. This man of great importance had two residences, but he was at home in none – or to put it another way, his answer depended on who was asking the question.
 
The story of Ivor and his €80,000 in expenses – is just the latest smell arising from our political houses, after the stink that wafted from there last year when John O’Donoghue ran up €126,000 in expenses in two years.   Last year we were listening to stories of €900 a night hotel rooms, airport transfers and hat rentals. [1]  So when the summer comes, and along floats another turd of a story of corruption, like there is an open sewer in the vicinity of Kildare Street.
But this is not a new phenomenon – going back to seven years ago,  there were sitting TD’s who were claiming more in expenses than they were making from their salary’s which at that time were averaging between €74k-€78k per annum. On top of that salary the average of €46K a year in expenses was being claimed by our elected representatives. Dinny McGinley (FG) the former teacher topped that poll pulling in €91,000 in expenses in May of 2003.[2]
From 2005 – 2008 a staggering €95million was paid out in just TD’s salaries and expenses. This figure does not include Ministerial salaries and expenses, and it also does not include travel costs which are normally dealt with separately by the Oireachtas itself* (see second allowance below). These figures come from the excellent website The Story – which is attempting to bring some clarity to the foggy area of Public life.   The figures for 2007 reveal Michael Lowry, a man not unused to scandal or trouble with the revenue commissioners, to be the big winner.
 
Gavin Sheridan – the journalist goes on to write...
In 2007 the biggest overall recipient of salary plus expenses was Deputy Michael Lowry. He received €194,643.02 and did not head any committees. This was the highest of any Member in the Dail, including the Ceann Comhairle (John O’Donoghue at the time) who received a Ministerial style salary (earning €189,120.56, or about €5,000 less than Mr Lowry). The main reason I can see as to why Mr Lowry stands out is his travel expenses: €70,169.08 in one year, the highest of any member, and a good €15,000 more than the next highest recipient (Michael Ring).”
Following on from the stink of the rock star lifestyle of certain deputies and Ministers, and given that there is a widespread call to reform this expense system they came up with a new one, whereby you can look for unvouched (no receipts) expenses of up to €15,000, or else you can look for a total of €27,500 – but you’ll be subject to an audit or to be more exact, One in ten TD’s will be subjected to an audit.
The Dáil sat for 100 days up to the summer recess this year, from when it returned in September 2009. [3]   So let’s assume that the expenses that our elected representatives is consistent – as they appear to be if you take a snap shot of the expenses for the following representatives – with all the political parties represented here we get this table.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
So in the 3 months (no figures available for June) the least that anyone of them took home in expenses was €9,425.01, and that was for the three deputies who are living in Dublin. The most was Willie O’Dea with €14,855.52. All of the above is vouched which means that all of the above are going to hit the target, I should say maximum of €27,500 that can be given in a year.
 
Also remember that there is a second allowance* for a Travel and Accommodation of up to €37,000 since March 1 which requires TD’s to clock-in in order to claim it and depends on how far they live from Leinster House. That is not part of the figures I’ve included above. There was mutterings of them being treated like ‘factory workers’ by some Fianna Fail backbenchers when they were informed that they were expected to ‘clock in’ so as to be to be able to lay claim to these expenses.[5] 
 
The basic salary for a TD is €101,000 a year, which compares with a MP in the parliament in the UK, receives about €72,000 a year[6]. If back in 2003, the average for expenses was running at €46,000 and we can only assume that this has risen. We can all safely assume that your local TD is getting more than €150,000 PA – one way or the other. Judging by the 2005-2008 figures the average take was €190,000 PA each.
At a time when we know that there are cuts coming down the line, and this government has been very specific in saying that it is going after social welfare, it is a timely reminder to remember that if you are a single person living on the dole, you’re yearly payment is €10,192. Each politician is there living on at least 15 times the dole payment. According to the CSO[7], the unemployment rate was 13.4% in June, which means that there are over 450,000 individuals out of work.
 
Let’s return to the Senate and the story of Ivor. The phrase ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes’ came from the Roman poet Juvenal.  He was asking the question ‘Who watches the watchmen’. When the circus was played out, and cameras were switched off, and microphones put away, Senator Ivor was suspended for 20 days and went off to West Cork or Clontarf to lick his wounds and repeated to himself ‘I did nothing wrong’ we should remember the question of Juvenal. ‘Who watches the watchmen?’
 
We should remember that when ‘calls to patriotism’ emerge from the mouths of Ministers, that the suffering is not the same up in the houses of political representation as it is on the dole queues or in the offices of welfare. When you hear the stories emerge about ‘dole fraud’ in border towns, or of single mothers who aren’t really single, ask yourself on the basis of this evidence where the real fraud is going on.
 
(D. Freeman)
 
 


[1] The Minister, his wife and the €126k expenses – Ken Foxe – The Sunday Tribune 2009 26th July
[2] TDS' EXPENSES BILL HITS E 8M; Average claim EUR46k a year – Joe Roberts – The Mirror (London)2003 4th Aug. 2003
 
[3] See Press release here at http://www.oireachtas.ie
[4] All of these specific TD’s expenses taken from available figures at www.oireachtas.ie
[5] TD’s must ‘clock in’ in they want to clock up expenses – Aine Kerr – Irish Independent  2010 Feb 11th  
[6] Unvouched payments among funds available to politicians – Mary Minihan – Irish Times 2009 May 16th
[7] Central Statistics office – Unemployment Rate

 

  


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