Figures released by Mayo County Council under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that Mayo county councillors were paid out €836,212 from January to the end of June 2009, all relating to the six months pre-election. Independent Castlebar Councillor Frank Durcan who sought this information said that these figures are “immoral in the times that are in it”.
The highest expenses were claimed by Fianna Fáil Belmullet area councillor Tim Quinn (€66,941.74 ) with the majority of these expenses coming from a large retirement gratuity of €49,138.55. The second highest claimant was Fianna Fáil councillor Frank Chambers, who again was given a large retirement gratuity of €46,772.18, with his total expenses coming to €65,230.10. The next top three highest claimants also benefited from large retirement gratuities. Labour councillor Johnny Mee received a total of €55,915.37; Fianna Fáil councillor Pat McHugh received €55,259.85; and Fianna Fáil councillor Sean Bourke received €51,911.49. Cathaoirleach of the council Cllr Joe Mellett received a total of €39,962.59 and the leas cathaoirleach, Fine Gael councillor Tom Connolly, received a total of €23,868.05. The lowest amount paid was to Fine Gael councillor Eugene Lavin who was given €14,112.41.
Expenses for travel in Ireland and internationally clocked up €70,270.47, €65,506.68 for expenses for conferences in Ireland, travel, and subsistence, and €4,763.79 for international travel. Eight councillors did not claim for expenses for conferences in Ireland, travel, and subsistence. The highest recipient of these expenses was Independent Belmullet councillor Michael Holmes who claimed €6,838.90, followed by Newport based councillor Frank Chambers who claimed €5,875.97. The lowest claimant for these expenses was former cathaoirleach Fine Gael councillor Joe Mellett (€236.60 ).
Five councillors claimed for international expenses for a total of €4,763.79. Swinford councillor Joe Mellett claimed €1384.13; Fianna Fáil Claremorris area councillor Michael Carty claimed for €1,016.21; Fine Gael councillor Patsy O’ Brien claimed for €932.29; and Fine Gael councillor Austin F O’Malley and Fianna Fáil councillor Jimmy Maloney both claimed for the same amount of €715.58.
The figure for mobile phone allowance for the councillors was €6,006.47. This amount was for 11 councillors. Four Fine Gael councillors claimed — Henry Kenny (€830 ), Cyril Burke (€600 ), Paddy McGuinness (€241.01 ), and Eddie Staunton (€190.82 ). Four Fianna Fáil councillors also claimed — Tim Quinn (866.30 ), Annie Mae Reape (€600 ), Frank Chambers (€593.06 ), and Johnnie O’Malley (€443.60 ). Independent councillor Michael Holmes and Sinn Fein councillor Gerry Murray both claimed for €600, and Labour councillor Johnny Mee claimed for €441.68.
Eight retirement gratuities were paid out for councillors, totalling €280,640.98. Five of these payments were made to Fianna Fáil councillors — Tim Quinn (€49,138.55 ), Frank Chambers (€46,772.18 ), Sean Bourke (€40,826.85 ), Pat McHugh (€40,665.61 ), and Michael Carty (€19,398.20 ). A total of €43,756.35 was paid to Labour party councillor Johnny Mee; a payment of €22,536.98 was made to Fine Gael councillor Paddy McGuinness; and €17,546.26 was paid to Independent councillor Harry Walsh.
A total of €122,585.89 was paid to the 31 councillors for their annual allowance and €305,136 was paid as representational payment.
The Cathaoirleach, Cllr Joe Mellet, was also paid €24,156.81 for his role, and leas cathaoirleach Tom Connolly received expenses of €5,315.40. Cllr Paddy McGuinness was paid €3,000 as the County Development Board cathaoirleach and the chairs of SPCs — councillors Margaret Adams, John Cribbin, Al McDonnell, Paddy McGuinness, Michelle Mulherin, and Jarlath Munnelly — were given €3,183.33 each.
Cllr Durcan described the six month figures as disgraceful, as councillors are “plundering the kitty and lining their pockets”. The Independent councillor said that Fine Gael is the new Fianna Fáil, “in fact they are worse as they are as greedy as Fianna Fáil and if the actions of Fine Gael in running Mayo County Council over the past number of years is indicative of how they would run the country”, as expenses have increased, then “God help Ireland — they have sullied the name of the founding father of the party” and are a “disgrace to themselves, the party and the people that they represent.”
Mayo County Council proposed earlier this year to publish each January the allowances and expenses paid to elected members during the previous year, which will allow for openness and transparency.