Tuesday 21 October 2014

TDs, senators spend €33,000 on mobiles in two years

Cormac McQuinn

Published 25/02/2013 | 04:00

TDS and senators have spent more than €33,000 of taxpayers' money on mobile phones in the past two years.

They included two Oireachtas members who bought two iPhones each in that time.

Independent senator Ronan Mullen bought an iPhone 4 in March 2011 and an iPhone 5 last December at a combined cost of €1,300, the most claimed by any TD or senator under the mobile phone allowance.

He said his iPhone 4 – which he didn't get insured – was stolen on a trip to Boston and he needed to replace it.

And first-time Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell used the allowance to buy an iPhone 4 when he assumed office in 2011 and then upgraded to the latest model last October, the week after the iPhone 5 went on sale here.

Meanwhile, two Fianna Fail TDs bought phones from a business owned by the brother of former Tanaiste Mary Coughlan.

Both Timmy Dooley and Billy Kelleher said they purchased the phones and accompanying car kits from Kevin Coughlan's Millennium Communications because he offered a deal matching the €750 TDs can claim for new phones every 18 months.

In total, phones, insurance, car kits and accessories bought by 52 TDs and 24 senators since March 2011 cost €33,436.65.

Recent purchases were made by Fianna Fail senator Terry Leyden who bought an iPhone 5 and a protective cover for €719, and Dublin North Independent TD Clare Daly who bought the same phone for €455.10.

Mr Mullen said he bought two iPhones because he had to replace the first one after it was stolen.

Initially Mr Mullen refused to give details of the theft, saying: "It was stolen, you know, that's all. I'm not going to get into my private life."

He added: "I did actually report it at the time. It's an awful thing – you just feel a right eejit, you know."

Later he sent a text to say that the phone was stolen on a March 2012 trip to the US when he was at Boston Airport.

Asked why he didn't get insurance for the original iPhone when it is covered by the Oireachtas allowance, he said: "I don't know why. I don't tend to insure phones," and admitted he hadn't insured his new iPhone 5 either.

Gift

He said he gave away a €25 gift card for Eason's booksellers that came with the phone as part of a promotion by the mobile phone outlet.

Mr Farrell did not respond to questions asking why he has charged two iPhones to expenses since 2011.

The Dublin North representative has made four separate claims under the mobile phone allowance, coming to a total of €747.82 since his election.

He bought an iPhone 4 in March 2011 and last October upgraded to an iPhone 5. Other claims include insurance costs and two iPhone 5 covers.

Meanwhile, the Irish Independent asked businessman Mr Coughlan if prices at Millennium Communications were designed to match the €750 TDs' mobile phone allowance.

A phone and car kit his business sold to Mr Dooley in December 2011 came to exactly €750 including VAT.

And Mr Kelleher got the same deal the following month – albeit paying slightly more, €762.39, due to an increase in the VAT rate that had come into effect on January 1, 2012.

Mr Coughlan said he had "no comment" to make.

Mr Dooley said Mr Coughlan was "a supplier like anyone else", and that "I told him that that was my budget (€750) and if he wanted the business he'd have to make do for that and he said he would".

Mr Kelleher said: "I know the man. He's Mary Coughlan's brother," and said this purchase was "a straightforward commercial deal."

He said: "I had €750. That's what I was going to give him.

"If he wanted €830, I wasn't going to do business with him," he added.

Irish Independent

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