A number of TDs have raised the question of new allowances to allow them to purchase office equipment while they work from home during the Covid-19 outbreak.
British MPs were last week offered an extra £10,000 (€11,500) to help with the purchase of new equipment for them and their staff to assist them in working from home.
Though it was reported that MPs had given themselves the increase, it was in fact the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. Here in Ireland, it is the Houses of the Oireachtas that would make the decision to offer a new allowance.
Sources say the question of extra funding to pay for office equipment or laptops has been raised by a small number of TDs.
Some staff have asked about access to better internet connections, new computer and printing equipment, and additional funds for increases in mobile phone bills.
However, the Houses of the Oireachtas says it is not considering any allowances.
A statement said TDs can avail of an €8,000 allowance when they are first elected to assist with setting up their constituency offices.
TDs can also claim up to €750 every 18 months for the purchase of mobile phones and associated equipment.
“There is no additional allowance being considered,” said the Houses of the Oireachtas. “For many years now [25-plus years], TDs have been able to avail of a constituency office set up grant.”
Due to public health guidelines, most TDs are working at home, with some representatives — mostly Dublin-based — able to make journeys to their Leinster House offices.
Sinn Féin Dublin Mid-West TD Mark Ward said that while working from home is “not ideal”, TDs are “paid more than enough” and said that, if anything, TDs should take a pay cut.
“We’re paid more than enough at this stage,” he said. “In fact, we’re on the record as saying that there should be a reduction in TDs’ wages.”
“Any supports that are out there at the moment for people to work from home should be given to small and medium enterprises that are really struggling.
“I have people around my area that have closed their businesses and are struggling and don’t know if they’ll get it back after Covid-19. Any additional money should be given to businesses who need it, not TDs.”
Mr Ward, who was first elected in November’s by-election, used his constituency office allowance to pay for office space in a local community facility.
He says that while trying to be a national legislator from home is not ideal, “there are people in much worse positions”.