Junior ministers' efforts to claim more hotel expenses deemed 'bananas'

Junior ministers' efforts to claim more hotel expenses deemed 'bananas'

Efforts by junior ministers to claim more expenses to cover hotel costs have been deemed “bananas” in the run-up to a possible snap general election.

Government sources have confirmed a number of rural ministers met with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe last week and pushed him to overhaul their expenses regime.

Their grievance is over the increasing cost of hotel rooms in the capital and the claim that ordinary backbenchers are allowed to claim more in expenses and allowances for less work.

Junior ministers are entitled to a basic TD salary of €94,535 and a ministerial payment of €35,319, pushing their income to €129,854.

A government source familiar with the talks and the identities of the relevant junior ministers labelled the approach as “bonkers”.

“This is bananas, meeting the minister and asking for this ahead of a potential general election.”

It is understood the several junior ministers told Mr Donohoe that they were paying as much as €500 a week in Dublin for overnight accommodation in hotels, but were not entitled to claim for this.

They said ordinary non-Dublin TDs can claim accommodation and travel expenses up to some €34,065 in a year while ministers cannot.

The government source added: “It is true they [ministers] do more when on the job. But it was the wrong time to look at this, even if it was in the context of after any election.

"Sure, you wouldn't know who would be a junior minister and who would not depending on the government make-up then.”

Mr Donohoe declined to comment on last week's meeting, which reportedly also saw the ministers remind him they had foregone salary increases over the past two years under the public pay restoration agreement.

A spokesman for the finance minister told the Irish Examiner: “There is no comment in respect of private meetings held by the Minister. Minister Donohoe routinely meets with Ministers of State on various issues.”

The demands have emerged at a time of increasing public sector pay demands, including in the health services, and the threat of strike action by nurses in the coming weeks over their income. Teachers are also heading towards industrial action over the pay gap for those who started work since 2011.

Several junior ministers yesterday were staying quiet about the issue and did not return calls from the Irish Examiner.


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