Ministers, TDs, and senators were able to claim €1.3m last year through a special allowance for public relations, IT, and secretarial work.
A number of senior ministers used the special secretarial allowance to hire PR advisers, separate to their press offices and special advisers.
Invoices obtained under the Freedom of Information Act give a picture of three months of spending under the allowance, with bills from public relations firms for ministers Simon Coveney, Regina Doherty, Joe McHugh, and six junior ministers.
Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney billed the taxpayer €29,520 last October for public relations advice from the firm Springboard PR & Marketing. Three separate invoices for an amount of €9,840 were all submitted on the same day but the Oireachtas has redacted details of what time period each bill covered.
Mr Coveney also paid somebody to carry out secretarial work, according to separate invoices. They were paid €216 for 18 hours of work, a rate of €12 per hour.
Education Minister Joe McHugh billed the services of journalist Greg Harkin, who was paid €3,400 for “secretarial assistance” in October, November, and December.
Employment Affairs Minister Regina Doherty hired Performance Matters to provide media monitoring and PR services. It was paid €5,750 last October.
Minister of State Jim Daly — who stepped away from politics at the last election — billed the Oireachtas €5,535 for the services of HP Ace Management and Training last September. An invoice note said this was for the “provision of PR and consultancy services”.
Junior Minister Helen McEntee hired Consilium Communications to provide “secretarial assistance”. It was paid €1,600 on November 1, €3,100 on November 2, and €1,199 on December 2.
Minister of State Pat Breen employed Claire Gallagher for “public relations service”, with an invoice paid last December for €2,079 and two bills in November, one for €1,860 and another for €1,094. Ms Gallagher also worked for Minister Patrick O’Donovan through the firm Galocon Media and invoiced for €1,094 in November.
Junior Minister Catherine Byrne also hired in outside PR help. Léargas Úr was paid €4,305 for its services in December 2019.
Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins used the allowance to pay for IT support, according to the records. An invoice from December shows €4,000 was paid to db Computer Solutions to provide “IT support and training of staff”.
Senator Gabrielle McFadden also submitted invoices for PR under the scheme. In each of September, October, and November, she billed the Oireachtas €1,700 for “public relations services” from Magpies Consulting.
Senator Rónán Mullen also submitted a bill for PR advice, with €495 paid out to John McElroy last December for work on a project.
In an information note, the Oireachtas said the purpose of the scheme was to allow for the purchase of secretarial assistance, PR advice, IT, or training services.
It said: “The allowance may also be used for remuneration of persons providing secretarial services ie temporary vouched employees. Purchase of equipment or expenses for which the Public Representation Allowance [ordinary system of expenses] is intended, are not allowable. Ministers can opt for an annual fully vouched allowance of €41,902.”