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Reform needed to stop SF abuse

The ruthless manner in which Sinn Fein is exploiting Dail expenses, which we expose in today's paper, demonstrates yet again the urgent need for reform of this archaic system.

The fact that Sinn Fein has been able to sidestep the regulations governing these expenses makes it clear that the current status quo is no longer an option.

Ever since it was learned last February that Sinn Fein TD Aengus O Snodaigh had taken computer printer cartridges with a total value of more than €50,000 from the Dail stationery office in the space of just two years, it has been blindingly obvious that the party will leave no stone unturned as it seeks to identify weaknesses in the Dail expenses system that it can turn to its advantage.

While the Sinn Fein TDs are perfectly within their rights to pay themselves only the average industrial wage and use the balance to pay constituency staff, the same cannot be said of the flagrant abuse of travel expenses, upon which we report today.

The example of Donegal South-West TD Pearse Doherty, who was able to use €8,000 from the €33,000 he claimed in travel and accommodation expenses last year to pay constituency workers, points to a system that is in urgent need of reform.

While this may be legal it certainly isn't right.

Of course Sinn Fein isn't alone in exploiting Dail expenses.

However, the systematic and shameless manner in which it has done so fairly takes the breath away and serves to demonstrate yet again the party's ambiguous relationship with this state.

Long before Sinn Fein took to abusing the Dail expenses regime on an industrial scale it was clear to everyone but our TDs that root-and-branch reform was needed if public confidence was ever to be restored.

While the vast majority of our TDs are no doubt individuals of the highest integrity, a system of unvouched expenses is inevitably prone to abuse.

Far better to introduce a system of vouched expenses, under which TDs have to produce receipts. After all, if it's good enough for most of their fellow citizens then it is surely good enough for TDs.

The introduction of a system of vouched expenses would not alone help raise the esteem in which the rest of us hold our TD but also make it much more difficult for Sinn Fein to abuse the system as it has been doing up to now.

Such a reform is both necessary and long overdue.

Irish Independent