By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — After a long battle to stop the information being published, full details of the expenses paid to individual politicians were disclosed at the weekend revealing that 23 TDs and than half the 60 senators got more than their basic salary in the year to last April.
The details, released to the Sunday Tribune under the Freedom of Information Act, come at a time when TDs are seeking a pay increase of about £12,000 a year on their £38,000 salary.
The 166 TDs and 60 senators were paid a total of £5.5 million, with Fine Gael Laois-Offaly TD Tom Enright topping the Dail league with £44,794 and Limerick-based Fianna Fail Senator Rory Kiely heading the Seanad list with £41,774.
The lowest expense claims in both houses present a contrast in political leanings — one is an independent socialist and the other a multi-millionaire businessman.
In the Dail, Joe Higgins in Dublin West claimed £13,580, while in the Seanad, Taoiseach’s nominee Edward Haughey, boss of Norbrook Laboratories, claimed £5,130.
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The Oireachtas public relations office issued a statement on the even of publication of the expenses maintaining that the politicians were losing money on carrying out their duties. It claimed that TDs in rural constituencies could be suffering a shortfall of £11,151.
The figures do not present the complete picture on what politicians are earning and claiming, however. Many have their own jobs or businesses and are being generously reimbursed for mileage and allowances for serving on local councils and health boards.
Some of the politicians have launched a strong defense of what they got, particularly those at the top of the leagues in both houses.
They claim their totals are high because they claimed once-off allowances for new constituency offices, had done a lot of foreign travel because of special responsibilities, or that the cash reimbursement in the figures for the year to April include claims from the previous year.
Ignoring the old political adage that when you are explaining you are losing, they have been supplying a list of figures and complex allowances on the airwaves.
What has caused surprise is the wide disparity in the size of claims between TD’s in the same constituencies when it would be expected that travel claims would be very similar.
The publication of the details during the media "silly season while news is in short supply has mean that the list of claims have received huge coverage.
Oireachtas PRO Verona Ni Bhroinn said the legitimate expenses of the politicians have "become an easy target for adverse speculation."
"Not surprisingly, any perusal of the figures will indicate that no profit ensues to members from their expenses and disabuses any notion that expenses surreptitiously enhance salary," she said.