Friday 24 February 2017

TD's 2,500 questions come at half-million euro cost to taxpayer

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

A GOVERNMENT TD has defended asking over 2,500 parliamentary questions last year at an estimated cost of more than €500,000 to the taxpayer.

Fine Gael's Bernard Durkan asked the most questions of any TD in the Dail last year -- 5pc of the total 46,500 put down by all deputies -- at an estimated cost of €200 each.

There are no limits on the number of questions a TD can ask, and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin was next with 1,278 questions.

Mr Durkan also defended putting down questions when he could get the information from other state agencies -- claiming the authority of a ministerial reply was essential, even though the answers might be the same.

Mr Durkan, a deputy for Kildare North, has one of the best Dail attendance records, and is also one of the most frequent contributors to Dail debates.

A study by the Irish Independent earlier this year showed he had a 100pc attendance and voting record for the first two months of the current Dail.

He said it was "hugely necessary" for TDs to ask questions to make sure departments, ministers and TDs themselves were kept "on their toes".

"I strongly defend the right of a member of parliament to ask a question on any issue," Mr Durkan said.

"It is hugely necessary and responsible of Government and government ministers to answer parliamentary questions relative and relevant to their department. I reject this alleged cost."

The Department of Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation calculated in 2008 that each parliamentary question cost €200 and a spokeswoman last night said they had not updated the estimate since.

In total, Mr Durkan asked 2,535 of a total of 46,000 questions from TDs this year. The total cost of questions in the 30th and 31st Dail was €9.3m.

In some instances, Mr Durkan asked questions of Justice Minister Alan Shatter on individual immigration cases, and Mr Shatter told him a special email service exists to ask the authorities directly.

Mr Durkan defended this by saying a reply carried more weight if it came from a cabinet minister.

"The purpose of putting a question down to a minister is to put on public record a reply which carries the full weight and responsibility and accountability of the minister and/or his department.

"The immigration process is subservient to the minister. In order to get an authoritative reply, you must get it through the minister's office. There is no other way the reply carries any authority. You may get the same information or you may not."

Irish Independent

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