Sunday 17 December 2017

Doherty may have to repay €8,000 expenses

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

SINN FEIN'S Pearse Doherty faces having to repay €8,000 after Leinster House authorities yesterday ruled that his travel expenses claim was "not appropriate".

The Irish Independent revealed last week that Mr Doherty had broken Dail rules by using €8,000 of his travel and accommodation expenses to hire party workers last year.

The Donegal man subsequently attempted to avoid repaying the money by saying he could put the €8,000 towards the cost of buying his car -- and that this had been agreed with the Oireachtas authorities.

As his car had cost €15,000, this would mean he would not have to repay the €8,000 he used to pay his staff.

The Oireachtas Commission would not confirm if Mr Doherty had been told such a claim would be valid. But it sought clarification from the Department of Public Expenditure about whether or not TDs could use their travel expenses to fund the purchase of a car.

Sources have now confirmed the department said it was not possible to make such a claim.

The Oireachtas Commission said last night that the existing travel and accommodation allowance for TDs already included a "contribution" towa-rds the cost of replacing a car.

Allowance

It said it was "not appropriate" for TDs to make an additional claim for the cost of a car under this allowance.

And the commission confirmed again that TDs had to certify that they only spent the allowance on travel and accommodation -- and were required to return any unspent monies.

Last year, Mr Doherty spent €24,000 of the €33,000 he received in travel and accommodation.

He returned €845 and used the remaining €8,000 to hire two part-time staff to work in constituency offices in Donegal.

Sinn Fein foreign affairs spokesman Padraig Mac-Lochlainn also admitted using the "balance" of his travel expenses to pay the salary of an extra constituency secretary.

But last night Sinn Fein still would not promise that the money would be paid back.

The party said that what Mr Doherty and Mr MacLochlainn have now been told by the Leinster House authorities "appears to contradict" what they were told in a meeting last week.

"The deputies are seeking to clarify this with the appropriate officials," Sinn Fein said.

TDs are paid an annual travel and accommodation allowance ranging from around €12,000 to €37,000 depending on how far they live from the Dail. They do not have to provide receipts, but must clock into the Dail for 120 days every year to get their full payment.

Irish Independent

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