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Enda's neighbour on Solas board nets over €4k in expenses

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Darragh Loftus and  Enda Kenny

Darragh Loftus and Enda Kenny

Darragh Loftus and Enda Kenny

DARRAGH Loftus, the Solas board member embroiled in controversy over allegations of cronyism, has claimed more in expenses than any other member of the board.

Eyebrows were raised when it emerged that Mr Loftus (25), a Fine Gael party member and a Castlebar neighbour of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, was on the State training agency's board.

He was appointed despite the fact that he did not appear on a list of suitable candidates for the position and the Department of Education had rejected him for the role.

Mr Loftus has been claiming an average of almost €300 a meeting in expenses for the unpaid board position.

But the Herald can reveal how less than half of the 13 board members of Solas have claimed any expenses at all.

Of the five who have claimed, Mr Loftus claimed the most with €4,465 since his appointment, while in that time he has attended 11 board meetings and four other meetings.

The other board members who claimed expenses were; Liz Cassidy (€2,556 for 13 meetings); Ken Whyte (€4,379 for 15 meetings); Patricia Carey (€2,638 for 12 meetings) and David Barrett (€1,748 for nine meetings).

Defending Mr Loftus's expenses claims, a statement from Solas said that board members received no remuneration.

remuneration

"Board members can claim expenses for any travel and subsistence expenditure where they must travel in order to execute their duties.

"The mileage rates paid are based on distance travelled and are strictly in line with approved public sector rates.Some Solas board members are Dublin based," it said.

Mr Loftus told the Herald that the expenses were incurred while carrying out his duties as a member of the board.

"The expenses are directly related to travel and subsistence in traveling from Cork to Dublin, they are also in line with those fixed by the Department of Public Expenditure," he said.

At least two other expense- claiming board members have a Cork connection - Ms Carey is a former president of Skerry's Business College, while Mr Whyte is principal of Presentation Brothers College in Cork.

Mr Loftus seconded Mr Kenny's election nomination in 2011. He is a former Castlebar chairman of Young Fine Gael and is from the Taoiseach's Islandeady, Co Mayo, parish.

It emerged last week that Mr Loftus was among 85 applicants ruled unsuccessful by the panel, but he was appointed by then-education minister Ruairi Quinn in October 2013 anyway.

Eight months earlier, Mr Loftus worked at an amusement centre in Castlebar, which offers bowling, pool, snooker and other activities. He has worked for former Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins, who gave him a CV reference describing him as "bright, intelligent and capable of working on his own initiative".

"It's important that people with Darragh's enthusiasm and qualifications feel they can serve free gratis on State boards, giving of their time and experience," a spokesperson for the Taoiseach said.

lbyrne@herald.ie


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