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Friday 15 December 2017

Joe Higgins defends Socialist colleague Clare Daly in new expenses row

Clare Daly TD
Clare Daly TD

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

SOCIALIST Party leader Joe Higgins has defended the use of taxpayer-funded expenses by his colleague Clare Daly to mount a nationwide campaign against the €100 household charge.

The Leinster House authorities are currently examining her use of travel expenses to fund her visits to anti-household charge meetings outside of her own Dublin North constituency.

But Mr Higgins backed up his fellow Socialist Party TD when questioned about it on the Today with Pat Kenny Show.

“It is absolutely justifiable to use a travel allowance to build a people’s campaign of opposition to a vicious austerity tax,” he said.

The Dail authorities cannot confirm if Ms Daly is only allowed to claim for "constituency travel" in her own constituency.

Ms Daly's case follows a probe into Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty's use of travel expenses to pay party activists.

She admits using her TD's travel and accommodation allowance to travel around the country to campaign against the payment of the €100 household charge.

But Dail authorities cannot confirm if she is only allowed to claim for "constituency travel" in her own constituency.

The Oireachtas Commission said TDs could claim travel expenses for journeys they had to make "in the performance of his or her duties as a member of Dail Eireann". Ms Daly could not be contacted for comment by the Irish Independent as she did not return calls.

She was drawn into the controversy over the use of the travel and accommodation allowance due to comments she made on TV3's Tonight with Vincent Browne show last week.

Ms Daly called for a substantial reduction in TDs' pay and expenses, and said that everybody should receipt and vouch their expenditure and that it should be related to their work.

She said she lives on an average industrial wage and the rest of the money is given back to the Socialist Party.

"It's used for community campaigns, for supporting workers' campaigns or whatever. I did obviously spend it on travel. I've been touring the country, building the household tax campaign," she said.

When asked about taxpayer funding for her to travel around the country to encourage people not to pay the household charge, she replied: "To represent the views of the people I was elected to represent, yeah. The household tax won't be defeated in Dublin North."

The Oireachtas said the issue was being "examined" to determine how exactly the expenses could be used and if travel around the country qualifies.

"Regulation 84/2010 determines the amount payable to a member of Dail Eireann as part of the parliamentary standard allowance each year in respect of travelling facilities for distances, from the member's normal place of residence to and from Leinster House, for overnight expenses and travel expenses which the member is obliged to incur in the performance of his or her duties as a member of Dail Eireann," a statement said.

Last year, Ms Daly's expenses were €22,821.43, as she claimed €10,142.86 in travel and accommodation allowance and €12,678.57 in public representation allowance.

She has chosen the unvouched method, so her limit is €15,000 but she doesn't have to supply receipts.

Last week, Sinn Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty avoided having to repay €8,000 in travel expenses, despite admitting to using the money to pay party activists.

Mr Doherty revealed that he had persuaded authorities to accept that he had forgotten to claim extra car costs for oil and tyres -- as well as AA membership (€72) and a driving licence renewal (€25).

The Donegal South-West TD did not have to provide proof of these expenses; the only requirement is that TDs declare they have incurred them.

This means that he will not have to repay any of the money, due to the decision by the Leinster House authorities to accept his latest explanation.

Mr Doherty admitted again last night that he had used some of his expenses to employ two part-time staff in his Donegal constituency offices.

He had first tried to claim that he could avoid repaying the €8,000 concerned by putting it towards the €15,000 cost of buying his car.

Irish Independent

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