EXPENSES totalling €905,694 were claimed by Clare’s two senior deputies, Minster of State Tony Killeen and Deputy Pat Breen, for the seven year period up to September 2009.
However, the current four Oireachtas members insist they are not on an expenses “gravy train” stating claims are based on the high cost of operating their offices and travelling to and from Dublin.
The expenses total, which were released under the Freedom of Information Act, excluded the deputies’ salary, which increased from a basic salary of €71,823 in October 2002 for a backbencher to a peak of €101,191 in August 2008, before it was cut back in the last Budget to the current rate of €92,672.
There are three rates of salary – €92,672 for a backbencher; €95,550 for deputies with seven to 10 years service (which has dropped from €103,389); and €98,424 for TDs with more than 10 years service, down from €106, 582.
Deputy Pat Breen, who is a member of the Council of Europe, claimed €560,115 for travel and subsistence, telephone allowance, secretarial allowance, constituency office maintenance allowance, constituency office grant and foreign travel during this period from May 2002 to September 2009. This represents an annual payment for expenses of €70,000.
“I have nothing to hide in terms of my own expenses and I have no problem with publishing deputies’ individual lists,” said Deputy Breen.
“I had intended to publish my own expenses for 2009 on my own website but staff members are out sick at the moment, which has resulted in a delay.
“I think that the Oireachtas should publish details of deputies’ expenses on a regular basis on its own website. Depending on when a deputy in a constituency makes a claim, they can end up being very high on any national table for expenses, which very often can be explained by the inclusion of arrears for a previous year. The more openness and transparency for expenses the better,” he said.
“The whole controversy surrounding foreign travel completed by former Ceann Comhairle, John O’Donoghue has tarnished peoples’ view of expenses incurred for attending meetings abroad.
“I don’t have limousines waiting for me at airports and I claim for taxis, flights and hotels. There are no direct flights to Strasbourg and it can take up to a day to get there for a meeting. It is not as glamorous as it is portrayed and all my foreign travel is to attend meetings where I am representing the country,” he said.
While Minister Killeen claimed €345,579 during the same period and over €200,000 from 2002 to 2004, his entitlements as a Dáil deputy changed dramatically once he became Minister for Labour Affairs in November 2004.
Minister Killeen has served as a Junior Minister in a number of departments including agriculture, communications, energy and natural resources and enterprise over the last five years, which have covered the cost of his travel to and from Dublin and overnight accommodation for official engagements directly and isn’t included for calculation purposes in his Dáil expenses.
The annual totals for these expenses were not released by the Oireachtas because they are covered by relevant departments. Minister Killeen is also paid an extra allowance for the extra duties and responsibilities that come with being a Minister of State.
Like other Ministers of State, Deputy Killeen was paid an extra annual allowance of €54,459, which has now dropped to €46,494 from the start of the New Year.
Deputy Breen claimed €56,984 for the first nine months of 2009, which was less than Deputy Joe Carey, who was paid €57,449 for expenses and Deputy Timmy Dooley, who claimed €57,121 during the same period.
Minister Killeen explained that in 2004, a decision was made to link the salary for a Dáil deputy to half of what a principal officer was paid in a Government department and annual pay increases went up in line with his officer.
He acknowledged that a different system operated for Ministers of State who were paid for their work as a Dáil deputy and the extra work being a Junior Minister separately, which wasn’t reflected in the information released under the Freedom of Information Act.
Deputy Killeen is paid a Special Secretarial Allowance as a Junior Minister to help him cover the cost of maintaining a constituency office, which comes to €41,092 annually.