President to return €200,000 in unspent allowance after seven-year term

The President says he will return some €200,000 in unspent allowances to the Exchequer at the end of his seven-year term.

Michael D Higgins also said he is open to the idea of publishing an annual report detailing all of the spending and costs associated with running the Arás - if he is re-elected.

He made his comments after a presidential election campaign event in Cork this morning as he addressed directly for the first time in the presidential campaign questions about transparency on Áras spending.

Several questions have been raised in particular about the unaudited €317,000 presidential allowance.

Mr Higgins said the cost of running the office of president will come in at around €25m to €26m over his seven-year term.

It cost around €3.6m to run the office last year, of which €1.7m was spent on salaries and €1.06m on the centenarians bounty for some 412 people, with a further 542 aged over 100 to whom the president sends medals.

“So the centenarians bounty and the salaries of the 27 staff are 76% of the €3.6m,” he said.

On the balance of the funding, he said he is conscious of the many questions that have been asked about the €317,000 budget allocation voted upon by the Oireachtas - an allocation in place since 1938 and at this level since 1998 - and over which the president does have control.

He said it funds all of the hospitality events hosted at the Áras.

And while his predecessor returned to the exchequer more than €500,000 unspent from this allowance after her 14-years in office, he will be returning some €200,000 at the end of his seven-year term.

"And in order to make it easier for people to answer questions about it, and frame questions about it, in the next term, I think I probably will produce something like an annual report of activities in the Áras," he said.

I’m very happy to look at any procedure in the future that will make it easier for people to access everything they want to know about what the president is doing, in the name of the people of Ireland.

"What is being spent, I account for it. And I think we get great value."

The President walked from the Imperial Hotel after the campaign event to the English Market where he met several leading local poets over lunch in the Farmgate restaurant.

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