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Michael Healy-Rae logged into Dáil on day he was in Kerry for a funeral

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‘I can’t give any more’: Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae says he “gives 150pc every day” to politics. Photo: Tom Burke

‘I can’t give any more’: Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae says he “gives 150pc every day” to politics. Photo: Tom Burke

‘I can’t give any more’: Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae says he “gives 150pc every day” to politics. Photo: Tom Burke

Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae missed keynote speeches to the Dáil by EU leaders Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier - but was "clocked in" as attending on both days.

While Mr Juncker was telling TDs "Ireland will come first" in the Brexit negotiations, the Irish Independent understands Mr Healy-Rae was a five-hour drive away in Co Kerry.

It's understood he attended a funeral in Sneem on the same morning as the European Commission president was in the Dáil.

However, attendance reports compiled by the Oireachtas for June 21, 2018, show he still managed to clock in at Leinster House.

Similarly, when Mr Barnier visited in May 2017 the deputy, who is chairperson of the Oireachtas Committee on EU Affairs, was absent but marked present.

Some 140 out of 158 TDs were in the Dáil chamber to hear the EU's chief Brexit negotiator's address at 11am on a Thursday.

At the time, Mr Healy-Rae claimed he did not attend because he was not afforded either an opportunity to meet Mr Barnier or contribute to the debate in the chamber.

Mr Barnier used the speech to promise he would work with TDs to avoid a hard Border because "nothing should put peace at risk".

Mr Healy-Rae declined to explain the exact circumstances that led to him miss the speeches despite his key role on the EU committee.

However, the TD defended his work on behalf of the people of Kerry saying he gives "150pc every day to politics".

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"I start out every day as early as I humanly can," he said.

"I can't be in two places at the same time. I try to cover Co Kerry as good as I can. I cover the rest of the country in as good a way as I can.

"I'm asked to go to things outside county and I represent people in the best way I can.

"Whether that's inside in the Dáil, whether it's chairing Oireachtas committees, whether it's attending briefings, I just do my best."

To qualify for their travel expenses TDs must register their presence in Leinster House on at least 120 days a year using an electronic fob key.

However, there is no requirement on TDs to prove they remained on the complex after checking in.

Based on the distance from his home in Kilgarvan to Dublin city centre, Mr Healy-Rae qualifies for unvouched 'Travel and Accommodation Allowance' of €34,065 annually.

The deputy is known to often hold constituency clinics in Kerry on Thursday even though it is normally a sitting day for the Dáil.

He has missed nine of 10 voting sessions in the past two years, most of which took place on Thursdays.

In some cases, he would have been "paired" with Government deputies, meaning he has agreed not to vote in order to facilitate the absence of a minister.

Put to him that logic suggests he clocks in early on Thursday mornings and departs for home, Mr Healy-Rae replied: "I can't even comment on that because that wouldn't be fair to say.

"I can't give any more than I'm doing and that's it. That's the only comment I'll give."

He added that reporters "can go this way and that way" looking to criticise him but "I do not spare myself".

"I'll issue an open invitation because I've done it with reporters. Come away with me, any one of ye, any day. I don't care if it is Monday or Sunday, come away with me and see what it's like.

"They can see exactly what it's like. They can stick with me and see for themselves.

"Maybe when they'd have one day put down with me, they wouldn't be anxious to come the second day," Mr Healy-Rae said.

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