O’Keeffe ignores demands to divulge Dual Abode relief

EDUCATION Minister Batt O’Keeffe was last night still refusing to tell taxpayers if he is one of the senior Government figures clawing back €100,000 a year between them for the upkeep of second homes.

Cork North West TD Mr O’Keeffe ignored growing opposition demands for him to divulge whether he took the Dual Abode tax relief – as Britain’s parliamentary watchdog moved to outlaw a similar scheme at Westminster, branding it “unacceptable”.

Mr O’Keeffe is among half a dozen Cabinet members – dubbed the “Secret 6” by opposition TDs – eligible for the perk as they are based outside Dublin who have so far refused to say whether they have received the benefit, which is worth on average €5,500 a year to ministers who claim.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen admitted he had claimed the perk in the past, but officials would not say how much he had taken or for what reason – despite Foreign Minister Micheál Martin making a clear declaration he received €3,000 a year as mortgage relief.

Mr O’Keeffe has cited the declining State tax base as a reason for major cuts in teacher numbers, bigger class sizes and withdrawing help for special needs pupils.

Mr O’Keeffe trailed in a distant third in the Cork North West three-seater last time out and is likely to struggle to hold onto the berth next time out given Government’s unpopularity – particularly regarding cuts in education and healthcare.

Fine Gael TD for Cork North West Michael Creed said it was time Mr O’Keeffe told voters whether he has received the perk or not.

As it is a tax relief, what the perk is used for is shrouded in mystery, though ministers have indicated it is used as a mortgage relief.

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