|Today is the 92nd anniversary of the first meeting of Dáil Éireann in the Round Room of the Mansion House, Dublin, January 21, 1919.|
Last November it was reported that a letter, written 18 days before his death at Béal na mBláth, records Michael Collins, one of the leaders of the fledgling state in the midst of a Civil War, offering to pay half of the bill for a car hired for campaigning during the June 1922 election because some of the journeys were personal trips. The letter was written to Skibbereen solicitor Tom Healy who had acted as election agent for Collins and seven other candidates. He hired cars for canvassing from local firm Johnson & Perrott, a company that still exists.
The letter signed 'Miceál Ó Coileáin' would be strange in modern Ireland with the contrast between the way most people handle their private finances and the wanton/shameful Irish lack of a duty of care when it comes to public funds. Photo: Houses of Oireachtas Commission
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.
The fiscal position remains strong. The public sector deficit is expected to
have been below 3% of GDP in 2010 and to return to a surplus by 2012. Public
debt remains relatively low. And contrary to many other countries, you reformed
your pension system years ago, so you are not facing huge future liabilities, as
a result of the ageing of your population.
The labour market, where the scars of the recession generally take longer to
heal, is already recovering. Employment and participation rates remained high
throughout the crisis.
Last but not least, Sweden is spearheading efforts to green the economy. Sweden
managed to decouple its GHG emissions from growth. It now boasts one of the
lowest GHG emissions per capita amongst OECD countries.
This is such a positive picture that you could be excused to rest on your
laurels. You shouldn’t. You are never totally free from external shocks. And
it is in good times that you should prepare for future storms. This is the time
to strengthen fundamentals even further."
Members of Sweden's Riksdag receive a basic, monthly pay of SEK 56,000 (€6,200),
a sum that is subject to income tax - - and is at a higher level than Ireland’s.
Members living more than 50 kilometres from the Riksdag are entitled to
reimbursement of up to SEK 7000 (€780)/month spent on overnight accommodation in
Stockholm. However, the Riksdag has about 250 overnight apartments which are
provided free of charge for members.
Fifty TDs only get the basic Dáil salary of €92,672 and their overall earnings
in 2010 were at an average of €112,000
In Ireland, an 'independent' TD can trouser over
€41,000 tax-free annually, with no need to justify where it has been spent and
this is in addition to a raft of other allowances and public funding for 2
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
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
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
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.
If he lives within 25km-60km of Dublin he will receive €28,106 per annum,
tax-free, to meet travel expenses to work, and for constituency travel.
He will also have public funding for 2 full-time
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.