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Senator got €250,000 tax-free payouts

INDEPENDENT senator David Norris – who caused a furore by accusing a female Fine Gael TD of talking through her fanny – has received over €250,000 in tax-free payments on top of his senator's salary.

Due to his long service in the Seanad, he has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the annual leader's allowance of €23,000, paid to 10 non-party senators.

It was introduced for senators in 2001 and since that date Mr Norris has been paid a total of €250,531 on top of his Seanad salary.

Unlike political party leaders, Mr Norris and other non-party senators do not have to vouch for how they spend the leader's allowance.

It is paid to allow non-party senators to carry out research, get policy advice and hire additional staff.

Entertainment expenses as part of their official parliamentary duties are also covered. They get the payment on top of their Seanad salary of €65,000, plus additional travel and accommodation expenses.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has announced plans to get the 10 non-party senators to vouch for their use of the leader's allowance – and has promised that his bill will be brought forward when the Dail returns from its summer break. He is also going to cut the size of the leader's allowance by 10pc.

Figures obtained by Fine Gael TD Patrick O'Donovan via a parliamentary question show that the biggest payouts under the leader's allowance were to Mr Norris and Senator Feargal Quinn – who also has received €250,000 since 2001.

A spokeswoman for Mr Quinn said he did not take his Seanad salary – but had used his leader's allowance to pay for research into political reform here and in other countries.

She said he had receipts for all expenses and would have no problem with Mr Howlin's legislation. Mr Norris could not be contacted for comment.

Independent Senator Jillian Van Turnhout said she published a breakdown of her leader's allowance spending on her website.

Independent senator Mary Ann O'Brien, who is a co-founder of the Jack and Jill Foundation, also said she used her leader's allowance for research for new policy and legislative proposals.

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