The taxpayer is to be hit with a bill of over €56,000 for a new fitness instructor to help Oireachtas members get fit.
As TDs left Leinster House last night for their summer holidays and ahead of the holiday recess, the House of the Oireachtas has confirmed it has appointed an on-site fitness instructor to manage the taxpayer-funded gym at Leinster House.
According to tender documents, the fitness instructor is InSpire of Leopardstown Valley, Dublin 18, and will be paid €56,580 (incl VAT) for the contract.
Initially, the value of the contract was estimated by the Houses of the Oireachtas at €61,150 (incl VAT) and InSpire beat off bids from four other fitness instructors to win the two-year contract.
The Leinster House gym boasts resistance-training machines as well as treadmills, cross-trainers, exercise bikes and showers.
InSpire is to provide training for our elected leaders, workout or aerobic services, personnel services and training services.
The gym is open to the Dail's 166 TDs and 60 senators, as well as staff that work in Leinster House.
The job description says that the potential user population is around 900 - but its average number of monthly users is estimated to be less than half that at 401.
Fianna Fail TD Timmy Dooley said yesterday that the gym should not be funded by the taxpayer or from the House of the Oireachtas general budget and should instead be funded from membership fees by users of the gym.
"In the current economic climate and when resources are scarce, I don't believe that the taxpayer should be funding this. I know private workplaces also provide such benefits, but I don't believe it should be done in the House of the Oireachtas."
The east-Clare man said that he doesn't use the gym: "There is a breed of a greyhound in me and stress keeps me thin."
In response to Deputy Dooley, a spokesman at the House of the Oireachtas said no change is envisaged in the current arrangements for the Oireachtas fitness room.
"Any proposals from a member to change the arrangements are best addressed to the Houses of the Oireachtas Service."
He said that a small fitness room was opened in 2005 "to offer a healthy recreational outlet for members and staff and to counterbalance some of the negative lifestyle aspects of working in parliament".
The spokesman said that "satisfaction surveys confirm that the fitness room is a popular and well-supported facility".
The spokesperson said that "the contract is awarded on the basis of an hourly charge for the service - which stands at €32 per hour, plus VAT".