Bannon and O’Rourke in top 10 big spenders

Longford/Westmeath TDs James Bannon and Mary O’Rourke have been named in the top 10 for Dail expenses, according to a report this week.

According to figures published in the Sunday Independent, Fine Gael’s Deputy Bannon made the top five when it came to expenses claims, and was named as the highest claimant among first-term TDs and the highest claimant from Leinster, taking home €83,858.

Meanwhile with claims of €78,184 in expenses and allowances, Fianna Fail’s Deputy O’Rourke falls into the list’s top 10. Fellow Longford/ Westmeath TDs Peter Kelly (FF ) and Willie Penrose (Labour ) were further down the list with claims of €75,466 and €66,755 respectively.

Speaking to the Advertiser from abroad, Deputy Bannon said that while he had not yet seen the report, he couldn’t understand where the figure for his expense claims had come from.

“I can’t understand where the figures come from. That figure is not for 2009. I will be looking for a breakdown when I return to Leinster House,” he said, drawing attention to figures from before Christmas which revealed him to be Longford/Westmeath’s lowest claimant up to October 2009.

And while the report has sparked anger and statements of defence among some of her Dail colleagues, Deputy O’Rourke said she didn’t feel she needed to defend the €78,184 she claimed in expenses and allowances last year.

“I don’t go in for that. I only ever claim what I spend, and the figure includes secretarial expenses and salaries. I have always asked for all expenses to be vouched, and I asked for this again this year. I wish everyone was paid according to their expenses sheet, and I do everything by vouched expenses.”

According to the report, which covers the period December 1, 2008 to December 1, 2009, the top overall claimant was Fianna Fail Galway East TD Noel Treacy. He claimed a total of €95,233 on top of his salary, which included €85,217 in expenses and his allowance of €10,016 for his chairmanship of an Oireachtas joint committee.

The report names Fine Gael TD Michael Ring from Mayo as the highest expenses claimant for the period, taking home €86,527; however, he did not receive an additional allowance for his chairmanship of a committee.

Deputy Noel Treacy this week accused the report of distorting the figures, arguing that up to half of the expenses are to do with staff salaries and remuneration, and that his own chairman’s allowance of €10,016 was taxed at the full rate.

The expense claims include those for travel to and from the Dail, overnight accommodation, rent of constituency offices, and telephone bills.

During 2009, Taoiseach Brian Cowen claimed just over €21,000, while Government Ministers were towards the bottom of the scale. However this is due predominantly to their access to full-time Garda drivers and to the fact that many of the expenses incurred in running an office are assumed by their departments.

In total, Dail Eireann’s 166 TDs claimed almost €8 million in largely unvouched expenses and allowances during 2009, an increase on the previous year despite a reduction in allowance and mileage rates.

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