Sunday 17 December 2017

Taxpayer forking out €1,300 every time Healy-Rae attends meeting

Edel Kennedy

A WELL-known county councillor receives an average €1,310 every time he attends a meeting on how to inform the community on public services.

Kerry councillor Michael Healy-Rae was paid an average of €455 in mileage and hotel expenses each time he travelled to attend a meeting of the Citizens Information Board (CIB) in Dublin.

County councillors who sit as board members of the CIB were paid more than €484,000 in expenses and fees in less than five years, new figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal.

Mr Healy-Rae, a former mayor of Kerry who plans to run for the Dail, during the next General Election was paid €4,553.16 in expenses for attending 10 meetings in the capital since his appointment. He also sits on the board's audit committee.

The expenses are in addition to the annual fee of €5,985 for sitting on the board, a position he will hold until 2015 after being personally appointed by former Social Protection Minister Mary Hanafin.

A total of seven board meetings are scheduled for this year, meaning Mr Healy-Rae will receive an average of €1,310 in expenses and fees for attending each one -- more than six times the current weekly job seekers' allowance payment of €196.

Last month, an Irish Independent investigation into payments to county councillors revealed Mr Healy-Rae received €74,342 in 2008 and €39,663 in 2009 in expenses and fees for his service with Kerry County Council.

Mr Healy-Rae last night defended the CIB expenses, saying he couldn't get to Dublin "by magic".

He insisted the services of the CIB were more in demand than ever as a result of the economic crisis, adding that it was one of the "busiest boards" he sat on. "Being on the board is certainly not for financial recompense," he said.

Fee

When questioned about the €1,310 average payment he will receive for each of this year's meetings he added: "I don't know where you get that figure from." He said the fee was taxable and that he had "a job to do".

Not all the journeys are board meetings, with separate journeys made for the annual conference and other CIB events.

All 15 members of the board are appointed by the minister.

Members of the board of the CIB have been paid almost €485,000 in expenses and fees in just under five years. They are paid a set fee for attending board meetings each year.

The minimum number of meetings is six, with the maximum of eight last held in 2008.

Under the Citizens Information Act 2007, one board member is an officer of the minister, three are representative of people with disabilities, one is a member of staff and the others are deemed 'ordinary'.

Three sitting and former councillors were appointed to the board by the minister last year and all are listed as 'ordinary' members.

They are: Patricia Walsh (FF) from Cavan Co Council; former councillor John Sheehy (FF) of Tipperary North Co Council; and Mr Healy Rae (Ind).

The chairperson is paid a taxable fee of €8,978 per annum and each of the board members gets a taxable €5,985, a reduction of 5pc on last year. Expenses for going to meetings are claimed separately and are unvouched. A spokeswoman for the board said: "Board members rarely claim for anything other than mileage or subsistence. In the case where they used public transport for example, or paid a toll these items are fully vouched."

Other findings reveal:



  • Former board member Mairin Byrne regularly billed for mileage, subsistence and a "bus/train/taxi journey" from her home in Howth.
  • Former board member Chris Glennon, from Naas, Kildare, was paid chairman's fees totalling €31,500 across three years.
  • The highest fees were paid in 2008 when board members received a total of €101,500. Expenses were additional.


Irish Independent

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