Sunday 13 October 2019

Noonan's ministerial drivers and car cost taxpayer €100,000 a year

Finance Minister Michael Noonan Photo: Doug O'Connor
Finance Minister Michael Noonan Photo: Doug O'Connor

Simon Rowe

Michael Noonan's ministerial car is costing taxpayers almost €100,000 a year.

The finance minister's two civilian drivers clocked up more than €30,000 in travel and subsistence claims between them in the last 12 months, placing them among the highest expense claimants at the Department of Finance.

The expenses are for journeys between Limerick - where the constituency office of Noonan (pictured) is located - and Dublin. The distance between the two cities is 120 miles and a car journey takes about two hours.

Driver Denis Dwyer was paid €16,947 in travel and subsistence expenses while fellow driver Gerry Rigney was paid €13,966 - a combined total of 30,913.

This figure is in addition to the annual €33,000 salary each receives. As a former Garda sergeant Rigney is also understood to receive a pension from the force valued at €38,000.

A department spokeswoman told the Sunday Independent that "both Minister Noonan's civilian drivers are fully compliant with official guidelines on travel and subsistence expenses".

"Minister Noonan works several days a week on official Dáil business and can be in various locations in the one day including Dublin, Limerick or abroad." Civilian driver Dwyer's expenses claims total was only narrowly pipped by Paul Ryan, a senior department civil servant responsible for Ireland's relationship with international financial institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and EIB.

Ryan's expenses claims amounted to €17,383 in the year, just €436 more than Dwyer's.

Michael Noonan had the third-highest expenses claims at €14,084.

Most cabinet members officially lost their garda drivers in 2011 as part of a radical cut in the ministerial car fleet.

The Department of Finance did not require ministers to advertise the €33,000 a year civilian driver posts, leaving ministers to make their own selections privately.

At the time, several ministers took on former garda drivers who worked for them. Gerry Rigney, who previously worked as a Garda driver for Noonan, was appointed a civilian driver in 2011.

Two civilian drivers share driving responsibilities for Noonan's ministerial car, typically working on a 'seven day on, seven day off' rota. The expenses relate to driving the minister between Limerick and Dublin.

A total of 138 Department of Finance staff claimed a total of €114,275 for the civil service overnight rate in the past 12 months, and €96,952 was claimed for hotel accommodation costs. The department also paid out €25,240 on receipted taxi expenses in the past year.

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