Friday 20 April 2018

Revealed: Details of what the taxpayer is spending on trips for TDs and Senators

  • Irish taxpayers spent almost €250,000 on trips in 2017
  • The most expensive trip was to Bangladesh, costing €21,000 for four TDs
  • €5k was spent on trips that were never taken
  • Trips included conferences, Brexit negotiations and even parade ceremonies
(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

Irish taxpayers spent almost €250,000 on overseas and domestic trips for TDs and Senators in 2017.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act 2014, reveal a total of €248,390.43 was spent on trips that included conferences, parliamentary hearings, Brexit discussions and even a parade.

The most expensive trip was to Dhaka, Bangladesh where four TDs went to an Inter Parliamentary Union conference in March 2017 for six days.

This trip cost €21,104 with flights alone costing more than €3,000 for each TD.

Another trip to Iran, as part of the Inter Parliamentary Association, involved five TDs who were flown out at a cost of €1,820 each.

The figures, obtained by Independent.ie, also show that more than €5,000 was spent on flights and accommodation, which were never availed of as TDs and Senators did not travel.

The House of Oireachtas spent a total of €5,101.16 on flights and accommodation for TDs and Senators for the 15 trips that were never taken.

These included trips to Brussels, Tallinn, Washington, New York and Iceland.

The House of the Oireachtas confirmed to Independent.ie that these trips were paid for in advance but that refunds may be issued if the travel was not undertaken.

In a statement they said: "If a member is unable to travel, flights and hotels are cancelled and where applicable refunds are applied for flights, hotels (depending on the cancellation policy offered by the hotel at the time of booking) and insurance companies."

The House of Oireachtas confirmed that flights and accommodation are booked by Club Travel on behalf of the Oireachtas service, on the instruction of the staff of the Oireachtas Service. However, TDs and Senators can claim individual expenses for costs during their trip.

Standard subsistence rates are set by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and vary depending on destination.

Among the costs incurred by the taxpayer in relation to travel by TDs/Senators were:

Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin claimed expenses of €319.40 from a trip to Paris from April 10 to 11, 2017. None of the TD's expenses include hotel and flights, which were paid for separately.

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Proposals: Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin. Pic: Tom Burke

Ms Mulherin attended the Joint Parliamentary Declaration on the future of CAP, alongside colleagues Charlie McConalogue, Pat Deering, Martin Kenny and Paul Daly whose expenses for the trip ranged from €135 to €242.

In a statement to Independent.ie Ms Mulherin clarified that the trip was for two days.

She added: "We departed early Monday morning and returned on late Tuesday evening. We had meetings and work scheduled both days of the trip."

Senator Brian O'Domhnaill expensed €184.42 for a one-night trip to Inis Mor, Galway to discuss community development issues on the Aran islands. Mr O'Domhnaill also had expenses of €428.83 for a one night trip to Cork in October to discuss community development issues in the Muscrai Gaeltacht.

Independent.ie are awaiting comment from Mr O'Domhnaill.

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Senator Brian O'Domhnaill

Senator Frank Feighan (FF) claimed expenses of €246.68 for a one-night trip to Belfast/Cushendall/Raithlin Island on September 12, 2017. Mr Feighan was in Belfast at a meeting examining the impact of Brexit on the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Feighan told Independent.ie that he filled out his mileage and travel times and then applied for the Standard Expenses Allowance.

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Senator Frank Feighan

Fianna Fail TD Robert Troy flew to Strasbourg as part of the Council of Europe,  in January 2017, with flights costing €710. Six other colleagues went on the same trip, with their flights starting at €270.

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Robert Troy

In a statement Mr Troy told Independent.ie that he flew economy, but that it was booked at the last minute due to Dáil arrangements.

"If I had known they were that expensive, I would have flown at a different time. I would never take a flight that expensive again and but it was due to short notice," he said.

Senator Alice Mary Higgins travelled to Paris for a Council of Europe meeting from March 20 to 21, 2017 and expensed €410.13, not including flights and accomodation.

When asked for a clarification about her expenses, Ms Higgins said that she didn't submit any personal receipts. She said she requested the Standard Expenses Allowance, which was €262.80 for an overnight stay and another €97.33 for the 10 hours she spent in Paris the next day. Under the Standard Expenses Allowance, Ms Higgins said that TDs are also awarded €25 per day for communications.

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Senator Alice Mary Higgins

FG Senator Joe O'Reilly claimed €847.23 in expenses for a three day trip to Helsinki in May 2017. Mr O'Reilly was attending a Council of Europe Committee meeting.

Independent.ie is awaiting comment from Mr O'Reilly.

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FG Senator Joe O'Reilly

Labour TD Joan Burton claimed expenses of €1,116.89 for a six day trip to Russia in October 2017. Her colleague, Martin Conway (FG) claimed expenses of €1,515.75 for the Inter Parliamentary Union Assembly. On the same trip, Ceann Comhairle Sean O'Fearghail expensed €573.66 for the trip.

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Joan Burton Photo: Tom Burke

In a statement to Independent.ie Joan Burton said that her trip was arranged by the Oireachtas and that her colleagues have up to one year to put in expenses, which is why hers may appear to be higher.

Ms Burton says that she had submitted all necessary documentation by the year end.

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