TD forced to pay back €1,000 expenses due to poor attendance

Hugh O'Connell

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon has been forced to repay over €1,000 in expenses after recording the lowest attendance in the Dáil of any TD last year – despite the parliament sitting in his own constituency for much of the year.

Mr Gannon only recorded 108 days of attendance, which is below the 120-day minimum required to claim the full Oireachtas travel and accommodation allowance (TAA) that he is entitled to.

The Dáil spent much of 2021 sitting in the Convention Centre, which is located in Mr Gannon’s Dublin Central constituency, in order to comply with public health restrictions during the pandemic. It only returned to Leinster House on the southside of the city in September of last year.

No other TD recorded as low an attendance rate as Mr Gannon for the purposes of claiming Oireachtas expenses, although five Sinn Féin TDs, including the party’s deputy leader in the Dáil, Pearse Doherty, also failed to meet the 120-day minimum and had to refund thousands of euro in expenses to Oireachtas authorities between them.

The amount a TD receives in TAA payments is based on the distance they live from Leinster House and ranges from €9,000 for those in Dublin up to €34,065 for those living in excess of 360km away.

TDs must repay 1pc of the allowance for each day below the 120-minimum. Mr Gannon confirmed that he repaid €1,080 – 12pc of the €9,000 he is entitled to – but insisted he was present more than the record shows.

“Between speaking time in the Dáil, committees and votes, I’m confident that I was present on far more than the expected number of days,” he said.

“I may have forgot to sign in on occasion, or couldn’t due to committee meetings being online but I had no issue repaying the allowance.”

Sinn Féin’s Cork South- Central TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire had to repay €3,136 of his travel allowance of €31,365 as he missed 10 days, while his party colleague, Cavan-Monaghan TD Pauline Tully, had to repay €2,293 after recording attendance for only 112 days. “I have two children so when they’re not in school I have to be at home,” she said.

Sinn Féin’s Tipperary TD Martin Browne had to repay €1,800, while Mr Doherty was one day short of the 120-day minimum due to contracting Covid-19 last December, meaning he would have had to repay €320 of the €32,035 TAA allowance he is entitled to as a Donegal TD.

His party colleague in Dublin West, Paul Donnelly, had to repay €360 after missing four days.

Another Dublin-based deputy, Joan Collins, the Right to Change TD for Dublin South-Central, had to repay €90 having also fallen one day short of the 120-day minimum.

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