'I don't delay' - Michael Healy Rae admits leaving Dublin around 8am despite being clocked into Leinster House
INDEPENDENT TD Michael Healy Rae has admitted he left Dublin around 8am on the day EU chief Jean Claude Juncker address the Dáil – despite clocking into Leinster House.
The chair of the Oireachtas EU Affairs Committee now claims he only made the burial of a man in Sneem, Co Kerry. He 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 told Radio Kerry today.
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 a five-hour drive away in Kerry.
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However, attendance reports compiled by the Oireachtas for June 21, 2018 show he still managed to clock in at Leinster House.
The Dáil convened on the day in question for Mr Juncker’s address at 11.45am.
During exchanges with presenter Jerry O’Sullivan on his local station this morning, Mr Healy Rae said he has 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 "sometime around" 8am.
The Kerry representative said he usually gets to his office before 7am, suggesting he would have been there for another an hour before leaving.
"I was late for the Mass. I made the graveyard because of the time I left Dublin. I was in my office, I did work which is perfectly allowable," he said.
Mr Healy Rae was asked repeatedly to outline his travel on the day but said he could swear to his timeline as he doesn’t write it down.
"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 Mr O’Sullivan put it to him that he took part in a 10-minute interview on Radio Kerry on that morning, Mr Healy Rae said he would have pulled over to do it.
Local Government Minister John Paul Phelan has already called for the Oireachtas to probe Mr Healy Rae’s attendance record.
"This is a matter I believe the Ceann Comhairle should investigate," he said.
When asked whether Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaíl will initiate an inquiry, a spokesperson for the Oireachtas had "no comment".
However, Mr Phelan, a Fine Gael minister of state, said it is "simply not good enough to point to working hard to explain away these apparent discrepancies".
"All public representatives log long hours on behalf of the people that elect them, this is the nature of the job.
"However, we must also follow strict rules that are in place for a reason and anything that erodes the public trust in politics just can’t be tolerated," he said.
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.