Friday 15 November 2019

Healy-Rae admits going to funeral in Kerry after 'clocking in' for the Dáil

Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae. Photo: Tom Burke
Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae. Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae has admitted he left Dublin around 8am on the day EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker addressed the Dáil - despite clocking into Leinster House.

The chair of the Oireachtas EU Affairs Committee has confirmed he went to a funeral in Sneem, Co Kerry, although he says he only made the burial in the early afternoon.

It means he would have had to make the 380km journey in around four-and-a-half hours.

The Irish Independent revealed last Friday that while Mr Juncker was briefing TDs about how "Ireland will come first" in the Brexit negotiations, Mr Healy-Rae was in his constituency.

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However, attendance reports compiled by the Oireachtas for June 21, 2018, show he still managed to register as attending Leinster House for the day.

The Dáil convened on the day in question for Mr Juncker's address at 11.45am.

Mr Healy-Rae was asked repeatedly to outline his schedule by Radio Kerry yesterday, but said he could not swear to the timeline as he did not write it down.

He said he regularly arrives at his office on Kildare Street in Dublin city centre before 7am and habitually clocks in.

"I would have imagined it [my departure] would have been after 8 o'clock or something like that. I do not know," he said.

"Everybody tries to do the right thing on the road. I don't delay when I'm on the road.

"When I'm on the road going up or down, I never stop. I always keep going, quite simply because I'm on the phone and doing my work. I never stop."

However, when presenter Jerry O'Sullivan put it to him that he took part in a 10-minute interview on Radio Kerry on the morning in question, Mr Healy-Rae said he would have pulled over to do it.

Social Democrat co-leader Catherine Murphy last night said the version of events provided by Mr Healy-Rae required further explanation.

"I think he'll have to account for that in the Dáil to one of the committee," she said. Local Government Minister John Paul Phelan has already called for the Ceann Comhairle to investigate.

Mr Healy-Rae previously said it was the "proper and right" thing that he attend the funeral.

"I'm able to get from Dublin to Kerry fairly quickly and fairly lively," he said.

He promised to provide road toll records to prove he was in Dublin.

However, he also said he couldn't remember what time he left Dublin, except that it must have been "some time around" 8am.

Mr Healy-Rae also missed a visit by the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, in May 2017, but was marked as being in Leinster House.

TDs must be in the House for at least 120 days every year to qualify for a Travel and Accommodation Allowance, which in the Kerry representative's case is worth €34,065 annually.

Mr Healy-Rae said his attendance is above the 120-day threshold, so there was no advantage to be gained by clocking in when he was travelling to Kerry.

Ms Murphy has called for a wider review of the system which allows TDs to clock in using a fob.

"It's open to abuse. Something has to be done about it.

"It brings the Dáil into disrepute, because there's a credibility issue," she told the Irish Independent.

There is no way of checking that a TD personally used their fob to log in and there is no requirement to clock out at the end of a day.

A spokesperson for the Oireachtas also confirmed that the system does not record what time a TD has logged in at.

Irish Independent

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