Shortly after the Seanad Members’ Interests Committee found that Senator Callely had misrepresented his normal place of residence for the purpose of claiming allowances I rang Seanad Eireann with a number of questions.
I was asked to put my queries in writing and received answers last Friday.
Two of the more important questions/answers are reproduced below (My emphasis).
The Committee found that Senator Callely was continuing to commit the offence of misrepresenting his place of residence in West Cork.
Who is responsible for rectifying this matter and is the matter being dealt with?
The Committee determined [paragraph 3 page 8 of the Select Committee on Members’ Interests of Seanad Eireann Report, dated 14th July 2010 ] that it is a matter for Senator Callely, in conjunction with the relevant authorities, to take account of the findings of its report and to regularise and make good his allowance affairs and to cease to misrepresent his normal place of residence.
On foot of that determination the Houses of the Oireachtas Service has written to Senator Callely informing him as to how the resolution of Seanad Eireann, of the same date, suspending him from the service of the House and withholding his salary for that period is being implemented by the Service and that his travel and accommodation expenses will not recommence unless and until the necessary declaration as to his normal place of residence has been submitted by him.
It emerged during the course of the investigation that Senator Callely was claiming an overnight allowance while staying in his family home. When he was questioned about this matter he replied.
I comply with the regulations.
My claims, I understand, meet the definition of the Department of Finance.
Is Senator Callely correct in his claim that he is complying with the regulations and do his claims meet the definition of the Department of Finance?
Section 1 of the Oireachtas (Allowances to Members ) Act 1962 as amended by the Oireachtas (Miscellaneous Provisions) and Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices (Amendment) Act 1996 and the Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) and Ministerial, Parliamentary, Judicial and Court office Act 1998 provides that “where a Member…..makes an overnight stay in the Dublin area…..the Member may …be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas an overnight allowance in respect of accommodation in the amount sanctioned by the Minister for Finance…”
There is no express legal prohibition on a Member making such an overnight stay in his family home.
There we have it in black and white. Irish politicians can claim overnight expenses while staying in the family home.
Given the low level of honesty within the body politic it is reasonable to assume that the vast bulk of politicians do, in fact, make this claim.