Shortall attacks ‘bullying’ culture

The Dáil’s culture of “threats and bullying” has been condemned by an ex-minister, as calls to slash controversial payments to political parties by half were ignored by the Government.

Former junior health minister Roisín Shortall hit out at the way whips exercised their power in the chamber, as she called for a radical reform of the Oireachtas.

Ms Shortall, who resigned from the Government in 2012 in protest at the way the health department was being run, said a “threatening and bullying” atmosphere had been allowed to take hold in the Dáil.

Ms Shortall was speaking as Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin pushed through legislation streamlining the controversial leader’s allowance paid to political parties on the basis of how many TDs they have.

Ignoring calls from Independent TD Finian McGrath to cut the payment by half, Mr Howlin renamed it the parliamentary activity allowance and said it would be cut by 10%.

The payment has been a source of contention for rebel TDs as it goes to party bosses even if a deputy quits to become an Independent.

Under the levelled system, parties will now get €64,000 each for the first ten members, €52,000 each for the next 20 members, and €25,000 each for more than 30 members.

A further reduction of one third will be made if the party is in government.

TDs elected as Independents are entitled to €38,000 each, which is intended to be used for parliamentary purposes.

A system of vouching for spending is also being introduced, but Mr McGrath said the moves did not go far enough.

“The minister is ducking and diving on this because he is afraid the parties are going to lose out on funding,” said Mr McGrath.

“We have no problem vouching for our leaders allowance as long as the parties do the same.

“I think it should be cut by half anyway.”

Mr Howlin said letting rebel TDs take the allowance with them could lead to the parties having to lose staff, and legal action.

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