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County's top-earner used his allowance to pay degree fee

ONE councillor in Munster used his allowance to pay for a Master's Degree in Business.

Clare County Council picked up the €2,800 bill for Fianna Fail's Councillor Flan Garvey.

This bill was part of the €134,300 in pay, allowances and expenses Cllr Garvey received over the past two years, making him the county's top earner.

The Inagh-based councillor told the Irish Independent that the county manager gave him permission to take the money for the degree course out of his yearly allowance allocation.

"I wasn't charging the council," he said. "I was charging it from my allowance. Every councillor is entitled to expenses and if I don't spend it on this [the Master's], I would spend it otherwise."

Cllr Garvey, who was mayor of Clare between July 2006 and June 2007, also travelled to Milwaukee, Chicago, Phoenix and Arizona on council business, at a cost to the taxpayer of €1,580 in 2006.

Last year he travelled to New York on council business for St Patrick's Day, at a cost of €1,192, and also made a twinning visit to Australia, at a cost of €1,733.

Meanwhile, several coun-cillors in Clare charged for office equipment. The highest claimant was Cathal Crowe, of Fianna Fail, who claimed €900 for office equipment and a car kit in 2006, and €1,400 for office equipment in 2007.

He also claimed €998 for a laptop and €1,200 for a Canon copier last year.

The rest of his expenses allocation for 2006 and 2007 -- totalling €9,700 -- was mostly spent attending summer and winter schools.

Cllr Crowe said councillors don't enjoy the same secretarial support as TDs and pointed out that he runs two offices.

"The expenses are fully sanctioned by the council and I think I run very good offices," he said.

He said the summer schools are necessary in order to meet other councillors from around the country.

A number of his colleagues also claimed large sums for office equipment. In 2006, independent councillor Christy Curtin claimed €1,900 on such equipment, while Fine Gael councillor Tony Mulcahy claimed €4,420.

In 2007, Fine Gael councillor John Crowe claimed almost €1,700 for a photocopier while Labour's Pascal Fitzgerald claimed €1,100 for a laptop and software.

Cllr Paul Murphy of Fine Gael didn't claim any conference expenses -- but claimed €3,250 for three separate lots of office equipment.