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Independent TDs in €700k expenses haul

INDEPENDENT TDs and senators pocketed €713,885 last year as part of a controversial payment system.

New figures reveal the lucrative expenses pot that our Independent politicians are sharing on top of their healthy salaries.

Under the allowance, Independent TDs are paid €41,152 for a full 12 months, while their colleagues in the Seanad are paid €23,383.

But unlike party TDs and senators, there is no obligation on the Independents to back up the expenses with receipts, which TDs and senators are required to do in order to prove exactly how the money was spent.

And the only Independent not to claim any expenses under the allowances scheme is an ex-developer facing mountains of debt.



Payments

Wexford TD Mick Wallace did not draw down any expenses whatsoever despite his very evident financial woes.

The payments are intended to assist non-party Oireachtas members who do not have the firepower of a political party behind them, to avail of services in the areas of public relations and administration.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform also makes payments to non-independent TDs and senators depending on how many seats their respective parties have.

According to the figures, a total of €713,885 was forked out by the taxpayer for the 10 months between February and December last.

Independent TDs shared an expenses pot of €505,091 while senators received €208,794 between them.

In the Dail, all but two TDs drew down the expenses over the a period of 10 consecutive months.

However Wicklow's Stephen Donnelly and Kerry's Tom Fleming drew it down over periods of six and nine months, respectively.

Rules state that the funding is not subject to income tax and cannot be used for electoral expenses.

Independent senator Martin McAleese only drew down the expenses for one month as he chose not to avail of the system until after his wife, former president Mary McAleese, left the Aras in November 2011.

And the parties themselves shared in a total of €6.305m -- with Fine Gael pocketing the large amount due to its representation in parliament.

The party received a total of €2.25m -- which is then shared out among its TDs and senators.

Fianna Fail and Labour were both given €1.46m, while Sinn Fein received €893,432.

The two smallest parties in the Dail -- the Socialist party and People Before Profit -- both received €120,902.



Review

The controversial expenses system has come under fire by the Standards in Public Office Commission with Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin previously announcing that it would be reviewed.

A spokesperson for the Minister said: "The review covers all aspects of the allowance including the transparency of the system with regard to recommendations previously made by Sipo.

"Once the review is completed the minister will bring proposals to Government."

hnews@herald.ie


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