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Recession? Not here as sales soar at cut-price bar for our TDs

HUNDREDS of pubs may have gone bust in the recession but the country's most exclusive watering hole went from strength to strength.

Sales at the secretive Dail bar soared by one-third to over €300,000 at the height of the banking crisis, while at the same time vintners accused the Government of "deliberately destroying the pub industry".

The Herald can reveal that the beer taps in Leinster House were in full flow as thirsty TDs and senators were regularly forced to stay back late to debate crisis legislation.

The public at large got a first look inside the plush bar this week after junior minister Ciaran Cuffe broke "clear rules" and posted a picture on his Twitter page.

The junior minister caused a stir around Leinster House last week when he ignored protocol and gave the general public a first look inside.

The head of the Oireachtas communications department has noted that Mr Cuffe was quickly asked to remove the picture from the internet.

And he has defended the practice of not allowing photography inside the corridors of power.

Oireachtas spokesperson Mark Mulqueen says that Mr Cuffe "inadvertently displayed an image online".

"When this matter was brought to the attention of the minister of State he immediately removed the image."

Despite the fact that the ban on photography is well known in Leinster House, Mr Cuffe said that he was still learning the rules.

Mr Mulqueen explained: "The rules and protocol of Leinster House do not permit the use of any type of camera within the Leinster House complex with the exception of the cameras used for the broadcasting of the proceedings or for official purposes by the Houses of the Oireachtas Service or by special arrangement."

Defending the fact that photography is not allowed inside Leinster House, Mr Mulqueen notes: "You may find that this is standard practice in most parliaments."

That means that Mr Cuffe's picture may be the only view that ordinary voters ever get of the bar, which sells cut-price beer and spirits.

Despite the rock bottom prices, the most recent income and expenditure accounts for the bar show that it enjoyed a healthy gross profit of €183,310. This was up nearly €50,000 on the 2007 figure.

The impressive figures -- obtained under the Freedom of Information Act -- come despite the fact that the Oireachtas bar is one of the cheapest in the city centre.

A pint of Guinness costs just €4, lager is €4.40 and bottled cider is €5. A measure of Jameson's whiskey is €4.40, West Coast Cooler is €4.40 and vodka is a very reasonable €3.80.

The cheap pints are enjoyed by politicians who generally earn in the region of €100,000 a year, as well as visitors on tours of Leinster House.

The bar has yet to file its accounts for 2009, but figures for 2007 and 2008 show that sales rose by over one-third.