Non-party TDs to get €205,000 leaders' allowance
NEWLY elected Independent TDs will each pick up a €205,000 tax-free payment if the next Dail runs to its full term.
All Independents are entitled to claim a €41,152 "party leaders' allowance" -- which is paid annually over the five-year Dail term -- on top of their €92,000 salary.
And if, as the latest polls indicate, Independent TDs gain 20 seats in this election, the final bill to cover the payment will exceed €4m.
The allowance was introduced in 1938. Initially, it was only given to party leaders and was based on the number of sitting TDs each party had.
However, it was extended to Independents in 2001, when the Fianna Fail-PD coalition was dependant on the support of four Independents.
It was further revamped following public outrage at former Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, who notoriously bought handmade Charvet shirts in Paris with money from the fund.
Legislation introduced by former Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy forced all parties to show the Standards in Public Office Commission how the money had been used.
However, a proposal to audit the allowance for Independent TDs was dropped -- meaning that the payment remains unvouched.
During the 30th Dail, five Independent TDs received the allowance: Michael Lowry, Jackie Healy-Rae, Finian McGrath and the late Tony Gregory.
Beverley Flynn also claimed the payment after being elected as an Independent. But she was later forced to give it up after it emerged she was still claiming it after she rejoined Fianna Fail.
An Bord Snip Nua called for it to be scrapped, but this was ignored by the Government.
Latest opinion polls put support for Independents at between 14pc and 16pc. If this is repeated on Friday, they would win up to 20 seats.
Incoming Independent TDs will not have to face any cuts to the allowance -- despite the black hole in the public finances.
Legislation governing the payment allows for it to be increased when those in the public sector receive a pay hike.
This means every time a civil servant's wage has gone up, so has the allowance -- and since 2002 there have been 12 pay increases. But the legislation does not require a corresponding cut when the rest of the public sector are taking a hit.
A spokesman for the Department of Finance last night said there were no plans to scrap or reduce the allowance. He said it was up to the new administration to decide if any changes should be made.
But some of those who previously received it believe there should be a reduction.
Dublin Central Independent candidate Finian McGrath said the allowance should be cut by more than 50pc.
"The allowance should be drastically reduced and it should be vouched," he told the Irish Independent.
"I put all my expenses on my website and keep all documents relating to how I spent my party leaders' allowance."
Dublin Central Independent Maureen O'Sullivan said the allowance should be scrapped for both Independents and parties.
"I would be happy if the allowance would be stopped for everyone," she said.