Monday 23 October 2017

Politicians told to clarify 'scenic route' travel claim

Anita Guidera

TWO politicians were last night being asked to clarify why their travel expenses to the Dail were significantly higher than those of a neighbour.

Under a new 'band' system, introduced just two months ago, Donegal South West TD Dinny McGinley of Fine Gael and Senator Brian O Domhnaill of Fianna Fail have put themselves in a higher band than near neighbour Senator Pearse Doherty of Sinn Fein for claiming travel allowance. Both claim to be in band 11, indicating they are over 60km further from the Dail than Mr Doherty.

But the Sinn Fein senator lives less than 5km from Mr McGinley and about 20km from Mr O Domhnaill, in the Bunbeg and Gortahork Gaeltacht areas of Donegal South West.

Mr Doherty is insisting that all three should be in band nine as they were all 294km from the gates of the Dail, a distance which yields €466 per round trip. In financial terms, the difference between band nine and band 11 could be as much as €95 extra per round trip.

The matter came to light just days ago when TDs' and senators' expenses were made public and the bands were indicated for each claimant.

Last night, Mr Doherty called on both public representatives to make "full and public statements to their constituents and the houses of the Oireachtas.

"I don't think it's acceptable that anyone takes the scenic route given that we are paid in the region of €466 to travel to Dublin on the shortest route, in the first instance. It is way too generous in the context of our constituents being unemployed and having to live on €179 a week.

"It is not fair, it is not right and there needs to be a full and frank explanation," he said.

Both Mr McGinley and Mr O Domhnaill said they were happy to have the matter investigated.

They said they travelled to Dublin via Sligo because each attended to business in their constituency offices in Donegal town and Stranorlar respectively en route. Mr McGinley further claimed that he had been advised in the past by security forces not to travel through Northern Ireland for security reasons.

A spokesman for Fine Gael said last night that Mr McGinley's mileage had been "verified by the Oireachtas".

"He diverts to his Donegal town constituency office and then proceeds to Dublin via Sligo. He is claiming for the miles he actually does," he said.

But Mr Doherty pointed out that the new regulations stipulated that you had to take the shortest route.

Irish Independent

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