TDs claim more and vote less

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 by Kathy Masterson

[email protected]kpost.ie

LIMERICK’S seven TDs are costing more than €1million a year in pay and expenses, according to figures released this week.

RTÉ’s investigations unit found that ‘the magnificent seven’ raked in a total of €3,993.724 between March 2011 and December 2014 through pay, expenses and special allowances including food, phones, laptops, tablets and other IT expenses.

However, their absence for Dáil votes is higher than the national average with the Limerick public representatives being marked ‘as láthair’ for almost a third of all votes.

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With government ministers clocking up an average of €631,000 each in pay and expenses between March 2011 and December 2014, Limerick’s two members of cabinet managed to secure payments well above the norm.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan (FG) was one of nine cabinet members to exceed €700,000, as he has so far received €727,473.

His fellow Limerick City TD, Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan (LAB) has to date received €682,513.

Minister O’Sullivan claimed €10,156.86 for her home or constituency phone bills, €2,220.52 for internal travel subsistence costs and €12,589.60 for phones, tablets, laptops or IT expenses.

Minister Noonan claimed just €179.44 for internal travel subsistence, and €150.00 for phones, tablets, laptops or IT.

The amount claimed by Minister Noonan for home or constituency telephone costs was not listed.

He also claimed €2,614.27 for mobile phone or broadband bills, while Minister O’Sullivan claimed €1,809.01.

Minister Noonan earned a total of €165,493 in 2011, €200,518 in 2012, €183,038 in 2013 and €175,480 in 2014.

Minister O’Sullivan earned €134,235 in 2011, €178,062 in 2012, €169,767 in 2013 and €173,673 in 2014.

Of the five other TDs in Limerick City and County, Fine Gael Deputy Dan Neville received the largest amount in pay and allowances between 2011 and the end of 2014 at €529,585.47.

His party colleague Patrick O’Donovan was next, taking in € 518,891.05, followed by Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins at €517,966.96, and Deputy Willie O’Dea (FF) with €516,510.15.

Limerick City Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell received the lowest amount in pay and expenses over the four years at €500,794.40.

Overall, 60 per cent of the Dáil’s 166 members earned more than €500,000, with the combined total for all its Ministers reaching €27.76 million.

Elsewhere, figures compiled by the Irish edition of The Times found that non-attendance among TDs for Dáil votes varied significantly, with TDs in Limerick County absent for an average of 19.4 per cent of votes, and Limerick City TDs for 43.5 per cent between 2011 and 2015.

The figures show that on average, just under a third (29 per cent) are either absent or abstain from each vote, and the rate of non-attendance among TDs is rising.

Minister Michael Noonan had the highest rate of non-attendance among Limerick TDs, as he was absent for an average of 64.1 per cent of Dáil votes over the four-year period. In 2011, he was absent for just 51.3 per cent of votes, however this has risen to 78.4 so far in 2015.

Deputy Willie O’Dea (FF) had the second highest average rate of non-attendance at 54.9 per cent, followed by his party colleague Niall Collins at 41.4 per cent.

Minister Jan O’Sullivan missed an average of 30.7 per cent of votes, while Deputy Kieran O’Donnell (FG) missed 24.5 per cent of votes.

The two Limerick TDs with the lowest absence rate at Dáil votes were Limerick County Fine Gael Deputies Patrick O’Donovan (8.7 per cent) and Dan Neville (8.1 per cent).