€61,000 travel expenses for TDs, senators

TDs and senators claimed over €61,000 on food, drink, taxis, and entertainment while outside Ireland on official parliamentary business last year

Figures from the Houses of the Oireachtas show 91 members of the Dáil and Seanad took part in foreign travel in 2014 to attend conferences and meetings of international bodies at a total cost of over €227,000.

The bill for the taxpayer included expense claims totalling €61,406. Two senators — Terry Leyden and Jim D’Arcy — claimed over €5,000 each.

The rest of the cost was made up of expenditure of €91,621 on flights and €74,359 on hotels and conference fees. Included in the overall expenditure was €2,560 spent on flights, hotels, and conferences where the politician in question failed to travel.

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Mr Leyden — a Fianna Fáil senator from Roscommon — clocked up €5,625 in expenses during eight visits to Strasbourg, Paris, and Malta last year at an overall cost of €11,778. He claimed a daily average of €258 in expenses on his trips to Paris and Malta.

Leyden’s average daily expenses claim for the 30 days he spent abroad on Oireachtas business last year was €188 — the highest rate of any TD or senator — compared to the average of €77 per day for all those who submitted expense claims. A total of 37 TDs and senators made no claim for expenses, as their costs were either picked up by their hosts or they absorbed the cost themselves.

Asked about his high level of expense claims, Mr Leyden maintained that they were entirely above board and he did not believe they were excessive.

“Everything is 100% legitimate,” he said. “All expenses are attributable to my work while travelling abroad as a member of the Oireachtas.”

Although he is a member of several committees of the Council of Europe, Mr Leyden said he did not attend every meeting. “There is absolutely nothing claimed for that was not incurred as an expense. I fill out a form with exactly what transpired during each visit — no more, no less,” he said.

Mr D’Arcy — a Fine Gael senator from Dundalk — incurred the most costs of any parliamentarian for foreign travel in 2014, with a final bill of just over €13,000 for his nine visits to various parts of Europe. He explained that his large expenses bill of €5,255 was attributable in large parts to payments for hotels in Paris and Turkey which he had paid upfront and subsequently reclaimed from the Oireachtas.

Other politicians with above-average expense claims include Galway Labour TD Derek Nolan, who claimed almost €950, or a daily average of €158, in expenses during his single overseas trip to Geneva. Before she was appointed arts minister last summer, Heather Humphreys claimed €146 on average each day in expenses over the course of three trips lasting 11 days.

The most expensive visit was a trip by a party of five Oireachtas members on an eight-day bilateral visit to Japan at a total cost of €19,167.

Labour TD for Meath East Dominic Hannigan and Fine Gael TD for Cavan/Monaghan Joe O’Reilly enjoyed the most number of foreign trips last year with each TD clocking up 11 visits outside Ireland.

Not surprisingly, as chairman of the Oireachtas committee chairman on foreign affairs and trade, Pat Breen accumulated the most air miles last year, enjoying a total of 56 days on foreign travel last year.

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