Taxpayer to cover €56,000 bill for TDs' personal training
Our politicians can happily enjoy the excesses of their summer recess in the knowledge that a new fitness instructor will be in place at Leinster House when they get back in September.
Taxpayers will be stumping up €56,000 to ensure that TDs and Senators have no excuse for not being in shape.
According to tender documents, the fitness instructor will come from InSpire of Leopardstown Valley in Dublin.
Initially, the value of the contract was estimated by the House of the Oireachtas that it would be €61,150 (including VAT) and InSpire beat off the bids from four other fitness instructors to win the two-year contract.
The Leinster House gym boasts of resistance training machines, free weights and benches, rehabilitation machines as well as treadmills, cross-trainers, exercise bikes and showers.
InSpire is to provide training for our elected leaders, workout or aerobic services and personal training.
The gym is open to the Dáil's 166 TDs and 60 senators, as well as staff who work in Leinster House.
The job description admits that the potential user population of the gym, between staff and elected representatives, is around 900 - but its average number of monthly users is estimated to be less than half that at 401.
Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley said yesterday that the gym should not be funded by the taxpayer or from the Houses of the Oireachtas general budget and should instead be funded from membership fees by users of the gym.
"In the current economic climate and when resources are scarce, I don't believe that the taxpayer should be funding this ancillary benefit. I know private workplaces also provide such benefits, but I don't believe it should be done in the case of the House of the Oireachtas," he said.
The east Clare TD said that he doesn't use the gym himself. He quipped: "There is a breed of a greyhound in me and stress keeps me thin."
In response to Mr Dooley's comments, a spokesman at the House of the Oireachtas said: "No change is envisaged in the current arrangements for the Oireachtas Fitness Room.
"Any proposals from a Member to change the arrangements are best addressed to the Houses of the Oireachtas Service."
The spokesman said that the contract recently awarded - following a full, open tender process - is valid to May 2017 with the possibility of two further extensions of up to 12 months each.
He said that a small Fitness Room (approx 75sq metres) was opened in November 2005 "to offer a healthy recreational outlet for members and staff and to counterbalance some of the negative lifestyle aspects of working in parliament".
The Fitness Room is open 27-and-a-half hours in sitting weeks and the spokesman said that "satisfaction surveys confirm that the Fitness Room is a popular and well-supported facility, used regularly by members and staff."