After allegations made in yesterday’s Irish Independent alleging that Sinn Féin are breaking Oireachtas rules by using unused travel expenses to employ clerical staff Deputy Pearse Doherty said that if he had broken any rules that he was unaware of that he would immediately pay them back.
Speaking to the Donegal Democrat Doherty said, “This whole matter has come to light because both Padraig MacLochlainn and myself have been totally transparent in declaring and indeed detailing our expenses on our websites unlike may other Oireachtas members.”
Both Doherty and MacLochlainn have confirmed that they had used unspent travel expenses towards hiring part time clerical staff but Doherty stressed that these were not ‘party activists’ or members of Sinn Féin. “They are employed totally on their merit and ability “ he said.
Doherty also made it clears that if he had used the unspent expenses by staying in much plusher hotels or eating a full Irish breakfast everyday he could well have used up his expense allocation.
He said, “Quite honesly I have no interest in staying in top hotels around Dublin or eating things that I wouldn’t eat at home just to make up the numbers.
“I am quite economical and often stay with friends which keeps my costs down. If I am breaking some rule by doing this and not staying in plush hotels I will pay it back but I would be very concerned about the impact it will have on the jobs of the part time workers in the present climate.
“I have only spent €24,000 of the €32,000 of the expenses allocated to me and I put the surplus towards the jobs of two workers.”
Both Doherty and MacLochlainn only take the annual industrial wage after tax which approximates €29,000 pa from their annual salary of €92,000. After tax this equates to €575 net per week.
A statement to this newspaper yesterday afternoon by Sinn Féin states as follows, “ Pearse Doherty and Padraig MacLochlainn will meet the Oireachtas Commission today (Wednesday) to clarify the appropriateness of their use of travel and accommodation allowances paid to all Oireachtas members.
“The TD’s published constituency accounts and showed that they used some of their allowances to take people off social welfare and employ them in their constituencies.
Doherty added “I have been totally transparent about this and published it on my website months ago,
“A question has now been raised about the appropriateness of this use of the allowance, so myself and Padraig MacLochlainn are meeting the Oireachtas Commission today.”
“If there is any irregularity, we will rectify it,”
“The Travel and Accommodation Allowance is an automatic payment based on elected representatives’ attendance at Leinster House. The money was used in good faith. and if it has to paid back I would fear for the impact it will have on the jobs of our part time workers.”