Kenny refuses to criticise party’s ‘Ash Cloud Three’

FINE GAEL leader Enda Kenny has refused to criticise three of his TDs who had the Dáil record changed so their absences, caused by Iceland’s volcanic ash cloud, would not be highlighted.

Mr Kenny made no comment after it emerged that James Reilly, Bernard Allen and Jim O’Keeffe had asked Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk to mark them present when they missed a week last April because they were stuck overseas.

The three have now opted to tell the Oireachtas not to count those days as part of their annual expenses claim.

They said the days in question would not have had an effect on their entitlements because they would comfortably pass the 100-day quota required to qualify for a full daily allowance.

Cork North Central TD Bernard Allen, who was in Portugal, said it was not a question of seeking to claim extra money. He said under the regime, introduced last March, TDs had to be present for 100 days between March and the end of December, and he would easily reach this threshold. When he spoke to the Houses of the Oireachtas, to clarify the record on enforced absences, he was advised to write to Mr Kirk.

Mr Reilly, who spent the Easter holiday volunteering with Concern in Haiti, also said he wrote to Mr Kirk because he was told to do so. “On enquiring of the Oireachtas what the correct procedures were in this case, my office was advised it was possible to apply for a derogation for non-attendance and I did so . . . The principal purpose was to explain my absence to the Dáil.”

Mr O’Keeffe, who could not fly home from Bangkok, said the desire to be marked present was to show that he was not away by choice.

Former Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue, FF, who was also marked present despite being stranded, did not make any comment.

Nine TDs from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and the independent benches did not ask for the record to be changed, despite being absent due to the ash cloud.


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