Saturday 15 December 2018

Ní Riada has collected €200k in expenses from European Union

Sinn Féin candidate who called for transparency in Áras spending benefits from unaudited expenses

Canvass: Sinn Fein candidate Liadh Ní Riada on the campaign trail in Crumlin, Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Canvass: Sinn Fein candidate Liadh Ní Riada on the campaign trail in Crumlin, Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Laura Larkin and Kevin Doyle

Presidential candidate Liadh Ní Riada has collected more than €200,000 in unaudited expenses since being elected as an MEP.

The Sinn Féin representative has repeatedly called for transparency over spending at Áras an Uachtaráin - but has struggled to explain her own finances.

Having previously claimed to take home the "average industrial wage", Ms Ní Riada now says she takes an "average" salary of €60,000 after tax. She uses €13,000 of that for constituency costs.

The Cork woman sought to dismiss her previous statements, claiming the pay is "no big deal".

However, the figure quoted during the RTÉ 'Prime Time' debate does not include lucrative allowances and expenses available to all MEPs.

Scrutiny

Sinn Féin has confirmed to the Irish Independent that she takes a general expenses allowance of €4,416 a month.

This money is to be used for constituency and administration purposes - but is not subject to any scrutiny.

EU sources said there was no auditing of how the money was used once it is transferred into an account for an MEP.

The concealed nature of their expenses has come under the spotlight recently with campaigners leading the charge for greater transparency.

An EU court recently rejected a bid to have greater transparency introduced in relation to how the general expenses allowance is spent. Campaigners said this left the detail of those expenses "secret and hidden".

Ms Ní Riada also avails of a daily subsistence allowance of €313 which covers accommodation and other expenses when attending the parliament. This is also an unvouched allowance paid to MEPs.

Asked whether she publishes a list of the allowances she claims annually, Ms Ní Riada said: "You get a daily allowance when you sign into the parliament and that goes towards your cost of living while you're there - and, yes, I have no issue in publishing my accounts, there are very strict criteria. We have to be transparent and accountable and I have no issue in publishing those accounts for anybody to see."

However, the party did not respond when asked exactly how much she has claimed under daily allowance and in travel expenses.

MEPs are also entitled to travel expenses to and from Brussels and Strasbourg, but these expenses are vouched.

Ms Ní Riada said she was an "open book" in terms of her allowances.

Wage

Asked whether she had been wrong to tell 'Hot Press' magazine that she earned the average industrial wage - when she has been pushing for transparency in the Office of the President - she said: "No, I think I'm being very transparent about it now.

"I don't have any issue and I'm the only candidate who has actually given a figure. None of the others has and I think that says a lot."

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin described Ms Ní Riada's response to questions during the debate as "squirming".

"I think that Sinn Féin have impaled themselves on this issue," he said.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News