independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Two MEPs in President race refuse to give expense details

TWO presidential candidates are among the two-thirds of Irish MEPs refusing to release details of their expense and allowance claims.

The silence comes just days before a report detailing widespread abuse of MEPs' expenses is to be published.

Fine Gael presidential hopefuls Mairead McGuinness and Gay Mitchell are among eight MEPs who declined to reveal their recent expenses when asked by the Irish Independent.

Just four of Ireland's representatives to the European Parliament responded to questions about their expenses and costs.

Spokesmen for both Mr Mitchell and Ms McGuinness said they would provide details on expenses -- however, none were forthcoming last night.

Only four MEPs provided any information, with varying degrees of detail. These were Proinsias De Rossa, Phil Prendergast, Marian Harkin and Nessa Childers.

Fine Gael MEPs Jim Higgins and Sean Kelly were among the eight who did not respond as were Fianna Fail MEPs Pat Gallagher, Brian Crowley and Liam Aylward. The Socialist Party's Paul Murphy also failed to respond.

On top of a salary of around €96,000 a year, MEPs are entitled to claim for a raft of expenses including staff costs. These can total up to €400,000 a year.

Independent MEP Marian Harkin said she claimed around €91,000 expenses in 2009 and had €202,968 paid on staff costs for five assistants.

"My group ALDE have led the campaign to have this information made public," she said in a statement.

Labour MEP Nessa Childers claimed just under €98,000 and indicated that her staff costs were €214,368 for four people.

Fellow Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa pointed to figures in 2009 that showed combined staff and expense costs of around €350,000 a year.

He added that he was putting together details of his more recent expenses.

A spokeswoman for Labour's Phil Prendergast said she had been an MEP for just one month, replacing Alan Kelly who was elected to the Dail earlier this year.

The failure to respond came as the European Parliament bowed to pressure from Irish barrister Ciaran Toland to publish the 2006 Galvin Report into abuses of the expenses system by MEPs.

Bonuses

The report, partially leaked in 2008, revealed the payments of massive bonuses to assistants and payments to non-existent staff, however no Irish MEP was named.

It also detailed how a number of MEPs funneled money to family members, non-accredited staff and national political parties.

Mr Toland fought a three-year legal battle after journalists were previously refused access to the report.

Irish Independent

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