Sunday 17 November 2019

Spare no expense

• Time and again we see the political class defending the myriad of tax-free unverified expenses and allowances they claim because they are "entitled" to them and don't "have to" provide or publish receipts.

Does it never cross the mind of a councillor, TD, senator, MEP or public sector official to question whether they should be claiming expenses they didn't incur and haven't provided and published receipts for? It is utterly astounding that, 18 months into office, not a single thing has changed with regard to these claims.

In properly-run countries all you need to do is go online and click on the claim form and the receipts that went with it to prove it was a genuine claim.

But can you imagine the wailing across the public sector in Ireland if they were all required to publish the expense claim receipts?

When did pursuing a political career change to being about how much you can line your pockets with in excess of what your ability would award you in the real world -- where you have to prove your worth?

If people incur legitimate expenses, those expenses should be published with the receipts. It shouldn't require the efforts of an investigative journalist to find out the details, because when that information isn't freely available it makes councillors look like they are hiding something.

The excuses from some representatives that they returned expenses they didn't incur is disgusting, because it proves they were claiming the maximum allowance in the first place and not making claims for costs incurred.

Time and time we think we know the worst, and then a bit more digging turns up more dirt we knew nothing about. It is remarkable that there is no one place that provides a comprehensive list of every expense and allowance paid to people across the public sector, elected or not.

Instead, each expense detail comes to public attention after someone has spent weeks or months, often having to fight tooth and nail against a department, council or the Oireachtas, determined to block any effort at transparency or accountability.

If only we had a new reforming government led by people with the guts to implement a Swedish-style Freedom of Information attitude to transparency. Instead, we get a 'new' government led by two old men who have hoovering up unverified tax-free expenses for years.

Desmond FitzGerald
Canary Wharf, London

• Your paper's special investigation into councillors and their families and friends and what some of them earn (Irish Independent, September 4) throws up a certain sense of deja vu which would have been appreciated by James Joyce.

In his short story, 'Ivy Day in the Committee Room', he captured local politics in Dublin in the early 1900s in all its various shades of greed and pomposity, as canvassers for the candidate seem more interested in the money they were earning than the merits of the candidate himself.

Mr Henchey's jaundiced view that "You must owe the City Fathers money nowadays if you want to be made Lord Mayor . . . by God! I'm thinking seriously of becoming a City Father myself" contrasts sharply with the more honest Mr Hynes' assertion that "The working man gets all kicks and no halfpence . . . the working man is not looking for fat jobs for his sons and nephews and cousins".

'Dallas' is back on our TV screens, but it's 'Dynasty' that is ruling our local parish pump politics.

Mark Lawler
Kilmainham, Dublin 8

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss