Outspoken TD Luke Ming Flanagan claimed nearly the full mobile phone allowance available to politicians, but did not use taxpayers’ funds to purchase a hands-free phone kit for his car.
The Roscommon–South Leitrim TD, who last week admitted having penalty points quashed for using his phone while driving, claimed €650 under the allowance.
TDs and senators are entitled to claim a maximum of €750 in an 18-month period under the mobile phone expenses scheme.
However documents and receipts obtained by the Irish Examiner reveal that Mr Flanagan did not use the scheme to buy hands-free phone equipment which allows drivers to safely take calls while driving.
In Sept 2011, he submitted receipts for €649.92 for mobile phone expenses from a company called King Communications in Ros-common. This included €590 for an iPhone, €25 for a starter pack, €15 for a car charger, and €20 for an ordinary charger.
Hands-free kits can be bought for less than €100.
Mr Flanagan admitted last week that gardaí wiped two penalty points and a fine after he was caught using his phone in Roscommon.
As revealed in the Irish Examiner, Mr Flanagan later wrote to gardaí asking that the fine be “waived” and pledging there would be no “repetition” of the offence. That was in July 2011.
He claimed the €650 in mobile phone expenses from the Oireachtas less than three months later, but this did not include a hands-free kit.
Mr Flanagan was caught again by gardaí driving and talking on his phone three months later, in December. He says a senior county council official offered to “sort out” this second offence.
Mr Flanagan’s office last week said he had no plans to speak to the media again on the issue.
He has helped front a campaign in recent months to expose the practice of gardaí wiping penalty points for high-profile people, despite knowing that fines had been wiped for him, a fact he failed to reveal to his Independent Dáil colleagues.
Mr Flanagan has claimed that a “cohort” of gardaí are going around asking drivers if they want points cancelled.
However, his letter to gardaí said: “In the circumstances, I would appreciate if this matter could receive consideration and have the fine waived.”
He told gardaí he was driving to the Dáil and the call was “touching Dáil business”.
TDs are exempt from certain offences travelling to and from the Dáil.
Mr Flanagan has admitted the act of writing the letter to gardaí was “corrupt”. However, he has refused to resign.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter is expected to receive a Garda inquiry into the cancellation of penalty points in the coming days, the results of which he has promised to make public.
Mr Flanagan’s situation with regard the second set of fines has also been referred to gardaí by Roscommon’s county manager Frank Dawson, who denies having any role in preventing the fine.
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