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Politicians spend over €300k at cheap Leinster House bar

THOUSANDS of pubs may have gone out of business in the past two years, but at the country's most famous hostelry it's still boomtime.

New figures show profits at the Dail bar are holding steady.

Pints, whiskeys and minerals worth €302,865 were sunk in 2009 -- the most recent figures available from the Houses of the Oireachtas.

While sales were down slightly on the previous year, profits were holding steady. The bar made a gross profit of €157,649 or 52pc.

This was supplemented with a strong performance by the Oireachtas restaurant which had more than €1m in sales for the second year in a row.

A price list for the restaurant shows that roast Irish beef with Yorkshire pudding costs just €7.65, while a T-bone steak, served with mushrooms, onions and chipped potatoes is €19.95. Honey roasted duck or roast saddle of lamb are €12.60.

In the bar a pint of Guinness is €4, lager €4.40, bottled cider €5 and long neck bottles €4.40.

Gin, rum or vodka is €3.80 for a measure.

A spokesman for the Houses of the Oireachtas said: "There are no direct subsidies for food or drink sold in the Houses of the Oireachtas restaurants or bar and any profits are returned to the central fund."

But not all of the profits did go directly back to help the cash strapped Exchequer.

Accounts obtained by the Herald show that staff enjoyed more than €46,000 worth of meals, courtesy of the taxpayer.

Another €4,803 was spent on flowers to decorate tables, up from a spend of €3,786 in 2008.

Other sundry expenses, including uniforms and newspapers came to €4,895. The restaurant opens on sitting days from 11am until 9.30pm and employs 35 staff.

The cheap booze and steaks are enjoyed by politicians who earn upwards of €90,000 a year, as well as visitors who take tours of Leinster House.

The bar operates with five staff members whose wages are funded by the taxpayer.

On days when the Dail is not sitting, it opens from 10.30am to 7pm. However, on Tuesday and Wednesday, when the majority of TDs are around Leinster House, closing time is 11.30pm.

A special exemption means that if the Dail or Seanad sits later than 11.30pm, a "one hour rule" applies, whereby the bar can remain open for up to an hour after the sitting ends.

The Herald also recently revealed how in the first six weeks of the new Dail TDs and senators ran up bar and restaurant bills of more than €60,000.

TDs who lost their seats at the last election also left behind a substantial bar tab which is being chased by the Oireachtas.