Saturday 21 September 2019

Ministers accused of being 'out of touch' over hotel bills expenses request

  • Group of eight junior ministers met with Finance Minister in a bid to convince him that they are being treated unfairly in comparison to ordinary TDs
  • Junior ministers must submit mileage claims to department and cover their own hotel bills
  • Junior ministers branded as 'out of touch'
  • 'They really want to get their priorities right... It's incredible, selfish and self-serving'
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Ministers who lobbied Paschal Donohoe for extra expenses to cover their hotel bills have been described as "out of touch" and "self-serving".

A group of eight junior ministers met with the Finance Minister last week in a bid to convince him that they are being treated unfairly in comparison to ordinary TDs.

Backbench TDs from outside Dublin are entitled to claim between €25,295 and €34,065 in unvouched travel and accommodation expenses annually - but ministers are not.

Instead they must submit mileage claims to their department and cover their own hotel bills.

One minister told the Irish Independent he is paying up to €500 a week to stay in the capital while the Dáil is sitting.

Mr Donohoe is understood to have been sympathetic to their complaint but ultimately said he could not change the regime.

Pat Breen is among the ministers who have farthest to travel from their constituency
Pat Breen is among the ministers who have farthest to travel from their constituency

However, Fianna Fáil's housing spokesman Darragh O'Brien said the ministers of state were "out of touch".

"They should look at the average worker who is paying €2,000 a month in rent and can't afford to buy a house. Those people would find this somewhat sickening," Mr O'Brien said.

"They really want to get their priorities right. I wonder how many delegations of junior ministers were in lobbying for affordable housing or more housing for our homeless.

"It's incredible, selfish and self-serving."

Labour senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the story in yesterday's Irish Independent shows Fine Gael are "absolutely losing the run of themselves and becoming more and more like Fianna Fáil of old every day".

"Last week, homeless figures were released that showed many children and their parents are still without accommodation and today we read on the front page of one of our national newspapers that Fine Gael junior ministers are moaning that they have to fork out for accommodation for two nights a week.

"The lack of self-awareness from these Fine Gael lads, and they are all men, is absolutely stunning," Mr Ó Ríordáin said.

Sources said the meeting with Mr Donohoe was non-confrontational but the requests for change were rebuffed on the grounds that it would not be approved by a majority of the Dáil.

It's understood the ministers who attended the meeting included Pat Breen (Clare), Ciarán Cannon (Galway), Jim Daly (Cork), Michael D'Arcy (Wexford), Seán Kyne (Galway), Paul Kehoe (Wexford), Patrick O'Donovan (Limerick), and David Stanton (Cork).

Others were said to be supportive of their position but were unable to attend.

A number of those who attended spoke to the Irish Independent on the condition of anonymity.

During the meeting, the ministers also reminded Mr Donohoe that they had foregone salary increases over the past two years under the public sector pay restoration deal.

The ministers said they were put under huge pressure to do so.

"In real terms, backbenchers are actually making more money than ministers of state," a source claimed.

Irish Independent

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