Efforts to end unpaid Dáil tabs

TDs and senators are to be blocked from running up tabs in the Dáil bar and restaurant unless they authorise their credit cards or arrange for salary deductions.

Efforts to end unpaid Dáil tabs

A new policy to stop politicians running up bills that never get paid is to be introduced by the end of the month.

It is designed to ensure there is no repeat of last year’s write-off of €5,500 in unpaid bills, including a case in which one former politician owed €943.

Up until now, TDs and senators were allowed to get food and drink on credit based on an honour system and make their repayments later.

The new credit regime was to be introduced on March 1 but delays due to factors including Storm Emma mean it will now be put in place over the coming weeks.

An information note explaining the changes said: “All customers wishing to avail of a credit facility will be required to provide either a credit/debit card payment authorisation or a salary deduction agreement, authorising the Oireachtas service to arrange for any outstanding balances to be charged to their credit/debit car or deducted from their salary.”

Under the new plan, politicians will be given credit for a maximum of two months but as soon as that time period elapses, deductions will be made from their credit card or salary.

The new regime will be in place until the next election when a new “formal credit facility” will be introduced for members.

It will be offered to TDs and senators when they first arrive at Leinster House to sign the roll of members following their election.

The Oireachtas said: “The granting of a credit facility to a member will be subject to their written agreement to the terms of the credit facility in advance, including their agreement to a method of payment, for example authorisation to have amounts due charged to a credit/debit card, deducted from salary, etc.”

Separately, the Oireachtas has again refused to grant access to the identities of the former politicians who had their debts written off.

After an appeal under Freedom of Information law, they did however, disclose that two of the six people involved were now deceased.

They said the politicians involved would have an expectation of privacy and that their personal financial details would not be disclosed.

The Oireachtas said they agreed with the argument that publication of the names would make it less likely people would run up debts in future.

However, they said they had no guarantee their records were accurate and it could be the case that the TDs and senators involved did not in fact owe any money.

Their decision said: “[The] records are demonstrably unreliable, and the risk of causing damage to innocent parties was the over-riding consideration.” Later, they said: “An important consideration arises in relation to the accuracy or validity of the records in question.”

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