| 8.7°C Dublin

MEPs vote to keep travel perks

TWO presidential candidates who voted against a European Parliament proposal to freeze the salaries and expenses of MEPs also voted against a move to make EU staff fly economy when travelling on official business.

Mairead McGuinness and Gay Mitchell -- both in the contest for the Fine Gael nomination for the Aras -- were among a number of Irish MEPs who voted against the defeated travel proposal earlier this year.

While none of the Irish MEPs fly business class to Brussels, some of their parliamentary colleagues wanted to ensure representatives from other countries didn't rack up large bills by travelling first or business class on planes and trains.

The amendment called for it to be an established rule that all journeys under four hours should be booked for economy class tickets. The flight from Dublin to Brussels takes around an hour and a half.

But the amendment said the age and health of individual MEPs should be taken into account when travelling. It also said the rule should be "applicable for parliament staff".

The vote was taken on April 6, the same day that a budget amendment to freeze MEPs' pay was also defeated. Mr Mitchell and Ms McGuinness, along with Fine Gael MEPs and Fianna Fail, also voted that down.

Ms McGuinness said she couldn't remember the pay freeze vote, and did not return calls on the travel vote last night. Mr Mitchell did not return calls either.

The proposal was tabled by the left-wing GUE-NGL group in conjunction with the Greens.

It was one of a number of amendments, based on a report by Portuguese MEP Jose Manuel Fernandes, trying to get the European Parliament to adopt cost-cutting measures.

Fianna Fail MEPs Liam Aylward, Brian Crowley and Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher voted against the travel proposal, while Independent MEP Marian Harkin -- part of the same ALDE grouping as FF -- voted for it. All Fine Gael MEPs, part of the European People's Party (EPP), voted against it.

Labour's Proinsias de Rossa and Nessa Childers voted in support of the proposals. Paul Murphy -- who replaced Joe Higgins as the Socialist Party MEP for Dublin -- also supported the travel and pay proposals.

The details of Mr Mitchell and Ms McGuinness's voting records also come after they last week refused to release details of their expense claims.

An MEP's salary is around €96,000 a year and they can also claim for a raft of expenses, which can total €400,000.

Irish Independent