Monday 17 December 2018

We want State to pay our hotel bills, say Fine Gael junior ministers on €130,000

Paschal Donohoe. Picture: Collins
Paschal Donohoe. Picture: Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A delegation of Fine Gael junior ministers have complained to the Finance Minister that they cannot afford to stay in Dublin mid-week due to spiralling hotel costs.

At least eight ministers took part in a meeting with Paschal Donohoe last week to voice concerns that their expense entitlements do not factor in overnight stays in the capital when the Dáil is sitting.

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

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

Ministers of state are entitled to the basic TD salary of €94,535, plus a ministerial payment of €35,319, bringing their total income to €129,854.

The situation has long been a private bone of contention with ministers of state but the ever-rising cost of hotel rooms led them to challenge Mr Donohoe in recent days.

A number of ministers confirmed to the Irish Independent that a cordial meeting took place - but ultimately Mr Donohoe rejected their demands.

"Paschal listened but there is an absolute realisation on both sides that nothing can be done about it at the minute," said one minister, who added: "Nobody is going to be interested in our bellyaching."

It's understood the ministers who attended included Pat Breen (Clare), Ciaran Cannon (Galway), Jim Daly (Cork), Michael D'Arcy (Wexford), Sean 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.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a second minster said: "Basically Paschal said people would have to wait until after an election. It's an anomaly that if you're a Dublin minister you're fine but if you come up from the country, you're paying for a hotel two or three nights a week."

Another member of the group estimated that his hotel costs are now hitting close to €500 a week, or up to €10,000 a year.

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

While the decision to forego the money was voluntary, the ministers say they were put under huge pressure to do so when compared to backbench TDs.

Irish Independent

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