Sunday 17 December 2017

Angry TDs say they won't clock in like factory staff

Aidan O'Connor

FURIOUS Fianna Fail backbenchers have told Finance Minister Brian Lenihan that they will not be treated like factory workers who use swipe cards to clock in and out.

Mr Lenihan met with TDs from his party yesterday to discuss a new all-in-one expenses payment system.

Under the current system, TDs are paid allowances for their constituency office, telephone, mileage and overnight/daily subsistence.

Several TDs fear that they could lose up to €10,000 a year in expenses under the new system, while others may gain.

But backbenchers took grave insult at a proposal to issue them with swipe cards so their attendance could be recorded.

"Can you imagine a member of parliament with a constitutional role having to swipe in as if he were a factory worker," one furious TD said last night.

"What if a fella comes up on a Monday night and decides to go straight to his or her hotel. Is he meant to swipe his card first in the Dail?"

Politicians say the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission -- the body in charge of Leinster House -- is taking a 'Big Brother' approach to how TDs and senators are paid and conduct their business. Fianna Fail TD Mattie McGrath repeated his call yesterday to have the commission scrapped.

Fianna Fail's representatives on the commission -- FF TDs Seamus Kirk and Michael Mulcahy and Senators Cecilia Keaveney and Jim Walsh -- have also come under fire from party colleagues over their roles.

Mr Lenihan introduced legislation on Thursday that allows him to make changes to the expenses system at any time.

Backbenchers claimed that they did not know until the 11th hour that Mr Lenihan was about to make way for a change.

Under the current system, TDs are paid allowances for their constituency office, telephone, mileage and overnight/daily subsistence. The new payment would be linked to distance from the Dail and the size of their constituency.

Despite earning a basic salary of more than €100,000 a year, TDs believe they have taken their fair share of pain through the pension levy and pay cut.

Mr Lenihan is meeting Fianna Fail senators on Tuesday to discuss the proposed expenses changes.

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