Tuesday 19 September 2017

Doherty tries to pay for car with his unused expenses

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

SINN Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty is trying to use the purchase of a new car to get out of repaying €8,000 in misused travel expenses.

This comes after the Irish Independent revealed that the Donegal South West TD broke Dail rules by using part of his travel and accommodation expenses to hire party workers last year.

Mr Doherty now believes that he could put the €8,000 in surplus travel expenses towards the cost of a recent car purchase.

Last night, the Oireachtas Commission was unable to say if he can actually do this.

It is the first time that a TD has made such a claim. The idea is that Mr Doherty would supply the invoice for the €15,000 car to retrospectively justify the surplus travel expenses claim.

TDs have to sign certificates declaring that they only use the expenses to pay for travel and accommodation -- and they have to return any unspent money.

Sinn Fein's foreign affairs spokesman Padraig MacLochlainn has also admitted using the "balance" of his travel expenses to pay for an extra constituency secretary.

But Mr Doherty has now raised questions about whether a car can be classified as a travel and accommodation expense.

In the wake of the controversy, all TDs have been reminded by Leinster House authorities to use travel and accommodation expenses for no other purpose.

Last week, Mr Doherty met an Oireachtas official in Leinster House's information service to discuss the matter.

A Sinn Fein spokesman said that Mr Doherty had been told he could use his surplus travel expenses to pay part of the €15,000 he spent on buying his car.

"He doesn't owe any money back.''

Mr Doherty pointed out that he could have spent his travel and accommodation allowance of €33,000 last year by staying in plush hotels or eating a full Irish breakfast every day.

Plush

"I am quite economical and often stay with friends which keeps my costs down. If I am breaking some rule by doing this and not staying in plush hotels, I will pay it back."

Mr Doherty paid the wages of the two part-time party workers for his Donegal constituency offices by using €8,000 from his travel expenses and around €16,000 from his Dail salary of €92,000.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein suffered a 3pc drop to 16pc in the latest 'Sunday Business Post'/Red C opinion poll.

Fianna Fail is the second most popular party, on 18pc.

Labour remains unchanged at 15pc And Fine Gael is up 2pc at 32pc.

And despite the tax controversy involving Independent TD Mick Wallace, support for Independents has gone up 1pc to 16pc.

Irish Independent

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