€400,000 in fees and expenses paid to Udaras board in past two years
MORE than €400,000 in fees and expenses was paid to the board of the Gaeltacht development authority in the past two years.
This included a single payment to one former Udaras na Gaeltachta board member of almost €30,000 in 2012 for travel and other expenses racked up over a number of years.
Records obtained by the Irish Independent reveal how large sums were consistently claimed by board members to travel to meetings.
Officials at the body said the diffuse membership of the board, most of whom are drawn from different Gaeltacht areas around the country, meant they often had long distances to travel.
Most of the board meetings were held at Udaras's headquarters in Furbo, Co Galway, but some were also held in Gweedore, Co Donegal, and Achill, Co Mayo.
Board fees and expenses claims totalled €273,000 in 2012. This figure halved the following year after new legislation was enacted, cutting the size of the board and changing how board members were nominated.
Former board member Seosamh O Cuaig, a Galway county councillor, received payments totalling €38,870 from Udaras in 2012. This was made up of €8,978 in fees and €29,892 in expenses.
The independent councillor told the Irish Independent the expenses claimed related to an eight-year period and that it was "negligence" on his part that they hadn't been claimed before then.
"I am not a great person for filling out expenses," he said.
Udaras officials said board members had been encouraged to file expense claims more regularly, but this had not always happened.
Another former board member, Brian O Domhnaill, received almost €8,000 in mileage and other allowances in 2012. Some €3,898 of this related to expenses incurred that year, with the remaining €4,045 being for previous years.
The Fianna Fail senator is under investigation by the Standards in Public Office Commission for alleged duplication of expenses during 2006 and 2007, allegations he denies.
Five members of the board were nominated by county councils that have Gaeltacht areas, while seven are nominated by Gaeltacht Minister Jimmy Deenihan.
Prior to 2012, the board was made up of 20 people, 17 of whom were elected and three who were nominated by the Government.