Politicians to be chased for €77,000 of unpaid bar bills
Published 19/07/2011 | 05:00
DOZENS of current and former politicians are to be pursued by authorities over unpaid bar and restaurant bills amounting to €77,000.
The Irish Independent has learned that at least €8,000 of this bill is owed by 36 ex-TDs and senators no longer in office.
They enjoyed limitless credit on food and drink at Leinster House facilities with no time restrictions on repayment.
Letters will now be sent to those responsible while a statement from the Oireachtas last night insisted that all monies would be recovered.
The development is likely to attract criticism given the increasing financial hardships experienced by taxpayers.
Politicians worked up the bills by entertaining guests at Leinster House with meals and alcohol.
And despite official insistence that the money would be repaid, many of the bills worked up by individuals are significant.
None of those linked to the unpaid debts have been named in line with official policy.
However it is known that one sitting politician currently owes €3,716 for food while another who no longer holds a seat owes €1,654.
The largest-single bar tab owed by a serving politician falls just under €700 while one former colleague owes €240.
The vast majority of the money owed relates to the restaurant as opposed to the bar.
No "formal limits" are set on the amount of credit politicians can receive and no set time period is given for repayment.
The statement from the Houses of the Oireachtas said: "All of this money is being repaid."
It added that much of the money relating to former politicians had already been repaid but fell short of outlining specifics.
"The Houses of the Oireachtas rigorously follow up on any current and former Oireachtas members who have outstanding accounts for catering services in Leinster house," it said.
"The only exception in the pursuit of outstanding accounts is in the case of bereavement.
"The Houses of the Oireachtas stand over the fact that all outstanding monies are pursued."
It dismissed any suggestion that the taxpayer would have to pick up unpaid debts.
TDs and senators avail of the credit service so that visiting delegations can be catered for with ease.
"This is not a free credit line for members and is repaid in full by members," the statement continued.
"The facility is in place as a convenience and to facilitate members when they are hosting groups of visitors, constituents and school groups."
A total of 111 politicians currently have unpaid bills within Leinster House, although many of these are quite low -- as little as €3.70 was recorded in one case.
However, no explanation was given as to why some TDs and senators who left their political roles were allowed to do so without immediately settling up.
The lax approach is also likely to be perceived negatively in respect of generous severance payments and pensions offered to senior public representatives.