MORE THAN €2m has been paid to members of the board of Udaras na Gaeltachta over the past four years.
The board of Udaras, unlike other state boards, is mostly elected, with 17 of the 19 members having to go before the electorate. Two members and the chairman are nominated by the Government.
The figures, released to TG4, showed that, since 2005, €1.2m in fees -- and over €800,000 in expenses -- have been paid to board members. Over half of them received more than €100,000.
Udaras na Gaeltachta, the regional authority responsible for the development of the Gaeltacht economy, pointed out that some of the payments related to work carried out before the current board was elected. Several claims are still outstanding from board members.
The board meets monthly and members also attend regional and sub-committee meetings. Before 2006, each member received €7,000 in annual fees. That figure then doubled. Each member now receives an annual payment of €14,000; the chairman gets €24,000. Chairman Liam O Cuinneagain has been paid over €155,000 in fees and expenses since 2005.
The highest-earning board member was Fianna Fail's Daithi Alcorn, with nearly €120,000 over the four years (including expenses of €61,000).
He was followed by fellow FF member Tadhg O Cuinn on €117,000 (expenses of €58,000); Brian O Domhnaill on €115,000 (expenses of €56,000); Cathal Seoighe, an independent member, with €114,000 (€55,000 expenses) and Fine Gael's Padraig O Dochartaigh got €105,000 (€55,000 expenses).
The least amount of money -- €72,000 in fees and expenses -- went to nominated member Treasa Ui Lorcain.
Mr O Cuinneagain insisted yesterday there was nothing irregular about the €2m payment since 2005. "There is no wastage. Our members have to travel. . ."
Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Eamon O Cuiv said he had been assured that Udaras was in compliance with Finance Department guidelines.