Anomaly that pays €16,000 extra in travel and accommodation expenses to commuter-belt Oireachtas members “inherently unfair at best and scandalous at worst” says government TD

A government politician has called for a review of how expenses are paid to TDs and Senators because of an anomaly that sees politicians in the same constituency paid more than €16,000 extra in travel and accommodation expenses.

Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell wrote to the Oireachtas Commission, the group that oversees the workings of Leinster House, saying the “eye-watering difference” was “inherently unfair at best and scandalous at worst”.

However, in response, the Clerk of the Dáil Peter Finnegan said the system of expenses was a matter for the Department of Public Expenditure and Minister Paschal Donohoe.

Under the rules for payment of what is known as the Travel and Accommodation Allowance, TDs living within 25 kilometres of Leinster House are paid €9,000-a-year to cover their costs.

However, for those living between 25 and 60 kilometres from their workplace, the allowance jumps by a massive €16,295 to €25,295.

The enormous discrepancy between the figures has meant that some politicians living in North County Dublin or commuter-belt towns in Kildare, Wicklow, and Meath are in receipt of the higher allowance.

A similar system exists for Senators where those living in the so-called ‘Dublin Band’ receive €5,250 per year to cover the cost of travel and accommodation.

Those living in ‘Band 1’ however, and sometimes only 30 to 35 kilometres away from Leinster House, receive an annual payment of €20,795 under the Travel and Accommodation Allowance.

Mr Farrell wrote to the Oireachtas Commission last autumn ahead of the coming election and called for a fairer system following the next national vote.

He wrote: “I believe all constituencies should be measured at a median point for all TDs, unless they live outside their constituencies.”

Four days later, he received a response saying his letter would be shared with the Oireachtas Commission, but that expenses reform was not their responsibility.

The letter said: “The regulations governing TAA [Travel and Accommodation Allowance] within constituencies are dealt with by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

“Any change along the lines suggested by you would be a matter for the minister.”

Asked about the correspondence, Mr Farrell reiterated the points made and said he was disappointed that the Oireachtas would not take more responsibility for the expenses system.

He said: “My point was that there should be a median point in every constituency and that’s where measurements should be made. This is taxpayer’s money, and it should be accounted for appropriately.

“[Under the system I suggested] if you’re elected to a constituency, you would be paid the appropriate band rather than finding yourself on the Dublin Band while another colleague isn’t, even where they are living only two or three kilometres away.

“It isn’t appropriate or fair. They choose to put themselves on it [the higher band]. They go home every night, and the electorate knows that. For the next election, it should be remedied.”

He said he found the hands-off approach of the Oireachtas Commission “slightly unusual”.

“They could say that this is a legitimate point. Could we look into that? It doesn’t appear that was done,” he said. “They should take responsibility.”