Irish General Election 2011: With the date of March 11th set for the general election, it is expected that there will be a large number of candidates aspiring to be so-called 'independent' TDs and apart from reinforcing the pernicious disease of clientism, there is the issue of the €206,000 tax-free bonanza over a Dáil term - - a relic of the free spending Ahern/McCreevy days.
Parliamentary pay and expenses may seem of little consequence but it reflects much else in the way an economy is run.
On Thursday in Stockholm, OECD
Secretary-General Angel Gurría presented an economic survey of Sweden and said:
"The economy is now growing at an annual rate exceeding 5% and we expect it
to grow by about 4% in 2011 and 3½ per cent in 2012.
In 1997, the non-party TDs negotiated with Bertie Ahern for an allowance equivalent to the Party Leader's Allowance and in March 1998, Minister for Finance Charlie McCreevy announced big rises in expenses for politicians including the new allowance of about €13,000 tax-free annually for non-party TDs; McCreevy cut the radius from Leinster House in respect of claiming overnight allowances, from 20 to 15 miles; the flat-rate daily travel/pocket money/turning up allowance for TDs and senators was increased from £26.45 to £45 and applied to all members who lived within 15 miles of Leinster House.
In 2001, following revelations at the Moriarty tribunal that Taoiseach Charles Haughey had bought hand-made Charvet shirts in Paris costing over £15,000 in 1991, with money drawn from the Fianna Fáil tax-funded party leaders' allowance, new measures were introduced to have such disbursements audited.
However, while non-party TDs were to have their special allowance also audited, that proposal was later dropped, presumably following pressure, and in the same year, McCreevy extended the allowance to non-party senators.
The Standards Commission reported last year that political parties received a total of €13,603,264 in state funding for 2009. The money was paid to the parties under the Electoral Acts and under the Party Leaders Allowance legislation.
Five parties (Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn Féin and the Green Party) received funding of €5,438,385 under the Electoral Acts and those five parties along with the Progressive Democrats received €8,164,879 under the Party Leaders Allowance legislation.
The funding is not subject to income tax and may not be used for electoral or referendum purposes. The level of funding is linked to pay increases in the civil service; however, the legislation which governs the funding is silent on pay decreases. Qualified political parties must furnish to the Standards Commission Statements of Expenditure of the funding received.
The commission said non-party members of Dáil and Seanad Éireann also receive funding under the Party Leaders Allowance legislation. The amount payable to each non-party member of Dáil Éireann during 2009 was €41,152 and the amount payable to each non-party member of Seanad Éireann during the same period was €23,383. The total paid to non-party members was €306,000. Non-party members are not required, however, to provide a Statement of Expenditure of the allowance to the Standards Commission, or to any other authority.
With the drop in house prices, a TD could buy a taxpayer-funded apartment in Dublin without a loan, in 6-7 years.
Senator Shane Ross has announced plans to contest the Dublin South constituency as an independent.
Since 2007, as a university senator, he will have received over €80,000 tax-free from this special allowance alone by March.
If Ross is elected to the Dáil, his expenses over a full term following 'reforms' which took effect from March 2010, will be as follows:
Non-party allowance: €206,000; €75,000-
€173,000 (the minimum is paid without presenting receipts), for general expenses
(it is called the 'public representation allowance'); €60,000-€189,250 for travel and
accommodation, and €8,000 for setting up a constituency office, which can be in
his house, without producing any receipts.
He will also have public funding for 2 full-time staff.
Ireland is bankrupt and despite the broken political system, many voters will look no further than their parish pump; if non-party candidates are not willing to surrender a tax-free gift that is greater than Ireland's annual per capita earnings before tax, don't be fooled by messages of radicalism.
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