Sinn Féin’s “disclosure” of figures already in public domain

Without pre-empting Mick’s thoughts on Sinn Féin’s statement “in the interests of full disclosure” there are a few points worth noting. Firstly the amounts of money involved are already known or would be published anyway – the figures [for all MPs] going back to 2004 are online here. And a number of MPs do not avail of the recently introduced Communications Allowance including some, but not all, DUP MPs. Here the pdf of last year’s allowances claimed.What the SF statement seems to be targetted at is the Additional Costs Allowance

From the MPs Green Book,

“The Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) reimburses Members of Parliament for expenses wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred when staying overnight away from their main UK residence (referred to below as their main home) for the purpose of performing Parliamentary duties. This excludes expenses that have been incurred for purely personal or political purposes.”

For some MPs those costs include food.

But Sinn Féin’s arrangements involved their 5 MPs claiming back £108,000 last year for two rented properties with all costs apparently covered [including “cleaning” and “laundry”]. [Adds Exact amount claimed for 2007/8 = £105,131]

Whether they had stayed there or not.

The maximum ACA amount allowed in 2007/8 would have been 5 x £23,083 = £115,415.

From the Green Book again.

3.3.1. Principles

You must ensure that arrangements for your ACA claims are above reproach and that there can be no grounds for a suggestion of misuse of public money. Members should bear in mind the need to obtain value for money from accommodation, goods or services funded from the allowances.

3.3.2.

You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you are, or someone close to you is, obtaining an immediate benefit or subsidy from public funds or that public money is being diverted for the benefit of a political organisation.

Of course, they are treated differently to everybody else. If they weren’t they wouldn’t be able to claim the expenses they do. But they have neglected to mention the other allowances they can avail of, which covers the cost of policy formulation, in Ireland. [4 x €48,547 = €194,188]

Then there are the millions from elsewhere..

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  • fin

    well done Owen Patterson, a future Tory government will deny expenses to the only party not to actually abuse the expenses system, obviously must be because they belong to the wrong tribe.

  • “Then there are the millions from elsewhere..”

    not forgetting organised crime. The latter might well make MPs expenses look like peanuts.

  • empire-home

    ok, first question is just how many nights did they actually stay at the accomadation in London,
    if it is a few as we suspect, then a flat is wholly unnecesary as 5 star hotels would be a fraction of that cost I persume.
    Second question, if they wernt using the flat, was anyone else? the neighbours seemed to suggest quite a few people coming and going, but it should only be for thier own or family use i persume.
    third question, they obiviously wernt using the flats for to attend parliment, so the few times they did was it in the service of thier constituents.

  • Pete,

    Try telling all this to those commenters on the ealier blogg (about Jeff Peel and the Robinsons) who tried to argue that since the individual SF MPs were not getting anything, all was right in the world.

    There are some people commmenting on Slugger who do the equivalent of trying to argue that blue equals red.

    I’m sure they will be here soon spewing their nonsense

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    If SF are the only party whose members are not personally benefitting from the expenses system then hopefully all the Irish parties and particualrly the Unionist ones will hopefully take the lead shown by them on this issue.

    The British parties especially the Tories who have re-awakened worries about the integrity of their more privlieged members should also follow SFs lead on this issue rather relying on the PoshBoyDC trying to distract attention from the shocking corruption in his own party by talking about the shortcomings of El Gordo.

    How refreshing that SF who rightly boycott the mother of all corrupt parliaments on a matter of principle should be giving this principled lead.

    I think we can all agree that whilst other parties should rightly suffer at the Euro elections SF should rightly benefit.

  • dunreavynomore

    “How refreshing that SF who rightly boycott the mother of all corrupt parliaments on a matter of principle should be giving this principled lead.”

    But I have heard Connor Murphy say that S.F. M.P.s travel to Westminster on parliamentary business on behalf of their constituents so it seems that they are are only a wee bit abstentionist which is a bit like being a wee bit pregnant. Surely true abstentionists would stay away from the place they despise.

    Can we soon expect full disclosure of Stormont expenses, I wonder?

  • Pete Baker

    Once again, Sammy Mc, you’re just not paying attention.

    There’s no “principled lead” from SF here.

    What there is is a catch-all claim, no names [or invoices] no pack drill, that comes in for each MP at more than either of the Robinsons’ claims.

    And the SF MPs haven’t detailed how often they stayed at the accomodation paid for with public funds.

    Although, I think Conor Murphy said he hadn’t been there in a year..

    Look again at the guidelines on the use of ACA.

    3.3.1. Principles

    You must ensure that arrangements for your ACA claims are above reproach and that there can be no grounds for a suggestion of misuse of public money. Members should bear in mind the need to obtain value for money from accommodation, goods or services funded from the allowances.

    3.3.2.

    You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you are, or someone close to you is, obtaining an immediate benefit or subsidy from public funds or that public money is being diverted for the benefit of a political organisation.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Pete,

    you are the one not paying attention. I am suggesting that “SF are the only party whose members are not personally benefitting from the expenses system”.

    You are attempting to divert attention away from personal corruption corporately sanctioned it would appear by the two main British parties and aped by the 2 main Irish Unionist parties.

    I appreciate you have been working hard on the above post, and to be fair, as a distraction its not a bad effort, but lets not lose sight of the substantive issue.

  • “should be giving this principled lead.”

    Ha ha ha ha ha; it’s the way you tell them, Sammy.

  • kensei

    Pete

    Any evidence that anyone in SF is personally benefiting from there claims? Any evidence the money spent is being funnelled back into the party in some fashion? No? Oh noes, because then your post amounts to a bag of fuck all, especially in comparison to some proper graft by English politicians. I had said I find it hard to get outraged on this, but “flipping” is clear graft.

    I also like the way in which you insinuate that other perfectly legal sources of funding are somehow suspect, and given this issue is explicitly over Westminster expenses, quite why they would go into Dail expenses or fund raising is beyond me.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sammy,

    Four years ago, in the course of a fairly savage attack on a council colleague, Peter Robinson told us that his expenses were “checked, verified and determined against strict accounting procedures by the House of Commons”.

    Back then we were obliged to take him on his word as a responsible politician and an elected representative. Today, things look rather different, if not for Robinson himself, certainly for the claims he made about the reliability of the system.

    Now, we know they claim expenses en bloc, regardless of actual use (and according to the evidence above, that’s a prima facae breach of the principles of the Green Book), but what do we know about Sinn Fein’s internal processes?

    We are told their MPs claim the ‘average industrial wage’. We don’t know how much that actually means. Or whether it is a flat rate across the board for all party members. Or whether and how much MPs can claim back in expenses from the party, or for what.

    Nor do we know if they pay the tax liability on the original income, or on the residue left them by the party. That’s one I would particularly like to see an answer to.

    I don’t think anyone can accuse Sinn Fein public reps of the kind of ‘conspicuous consumption’ so evident in some politicians of other parties. But, then again, there are many politicians in other parties who do not indulge either, despite drawing down their full salaries.

    But if you want to claim qualities for which there is little transparent evidence, be my guest. I’ll reserve my fuller judgement until I get some real answers on some of the questions above.

    No one should begrudge Sinn Fein a principled stand on not taking its seats at Westminster. But the heart of the scandal here is a palpable sense that politicians are fleecing the taxpayer. Since some SF MLAs have considerable responsibility for the disbursement of UK taxpayers (that includes you and me, regardless of our declared nationality) funds, it stands to reason they should be as accountable as individuals as anyone in any other party.

    As things stand, they simply aren’t. Frankly, we know much less about what SF MPs actually earn or how and why the money they do claim is disposed of than those of any other party. I admire Adams’s Chutzpah. But I await real disclosure on the party’s internal finances before I’m tempted to give them a ‘bye ball’…

  • Dave

    The taxpayers want to know why Sinn Fein have screwed them out of nearly £500,000 in expenses on two rented London properties that they rarely visit, and they want to know why Shinner MPs signed off on expense claims that include paying 3 times the market value for rent on one of the properties.

    The question of whether or not a bunch of millionaire criminals turned political hacks have personally gained from screwing the taxpayer is yet to be determined but what is not in dispute is that they have screwed the taxpayer, and badly.

    Why did the Shinner MPs sign off on rent of £5,400 a month for a property that rents for £1,800 a month? Did they agree to pay three times the market value because they love wealthy landlords and hate taxpayers or was there another reason why they screwed the taxpayer? There are 500 working families who worked hard to pay that £1000 in tax to the state only to see the Shinners blow it.

  • Big Maggie

    The very best comment on the expenses scandal came from a journalist whose name escapes me at the mo. He said something along these lines:

    “Say you’re invited to someone’s home. They set a plate of biscuits before you. You eat one or two: fine. You scoff the lot: not so fine.”

    I think what he was getting at is that an MP is not obliged to take all that’s on offer. That some do, and have done, is an abuse of the hospitality of the host, i.e. us, the taxpayer.

  • kensei

    Dave

    The taxpayers want to know why Sinn Fein have screwed them out of nearly £500,000 in expenses on two rented London properties that they rarely visit,

    They cleared preferred a permanent base of operations rather than hotels, particularly when peace processing was going on. Their expenses entitled them to it. It is not entirely unreasonable. Utter non issue.

    The question of whether or not a bunch of millionaire criminals turned political hacks have personally gained from screwing the taxpayer is yet to be determined but what is not in dispute is that they have screwed the taxpayer, and badly.

    Actually, it isn’t. I am not in possession of the full facts – are you? And given the expenses that SF do not claim and the salaries they don’t draw, they are not particularly expensive in comparison to other representatives.

    and they want to know why Shinner MPs signed off on expense claims that include paying 3 times the market value for rent on one of the properties.

    The only bit that seems suspect to me. SF have claimed it has included some services like cleaning, so that will cover a little bit. As and until it can proven there is any kickbacks or fraud, then they are innocent of any wrong doing, David. I await the three post rant in response.

  • Big Maggie

    kensei,

    “Their expenses entitled them to it. It is not entirely unreasonable.”

    See my previous comment.

  • kensei

    Fealty

    But I await real disclosure on the party’s internal finances before I’m tempted to give them a ‘bye ball’..

    Ah. Whatever happened to presumption of innocence.

    We are told their MPs claim the ‘average industrial wage’. We don’t know how much that actually means. Or whether it is a flat rate across the board for all party members. Or whether and how much MPs can claim back in expenses from the party, or for what.

    If the original expenses claims are sound, then whatever is claimed further down must also be sound. If the party lets their MPs claim for cleaning a moat it is irrelevant to the question of public monies. They are effectively, only letting them claim back some of their original salaries in the first place. Interesting, yes, potentially embarrassing for SF, yes, but it can’t magically make sound expenses claims through the system unsound. If there is a problem, it has to be a first order problem.

    Nor do we know if they pay the tax liability on the original income, or on the residue left them by the party. That’s one I would particularly like to see an answer to.

    Is that not traceable by an FoI request or SF’s public accounts?

  • kensei

    Maggie

    See my previous comment.

    It’s not really unreasonable. And the example is wrong. The person put out the biscuits, said these are your biscuits, if you need them, then got annoyed people ate the biscuits. If you don’t want people eating the biscuits, then for god’s sake don’t put them out.

    People taking the biscuits and selling them on for a big profit however, is wrong.

  • Big Maggie

    kensei,

    “If you don’t want people eating the biscuits, then for god’s sake don’t put them out.”

    Yes. This is where ethics not reason come in. You insist it’s reasonable for those who are entitled to expenses may claim them; I contend that ethics must also play a role.

    I could be wrong but I think this is the nub of the matter. We need ethical politicians.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    Firstly , there is NO evidence that SF MPs perosnally benfited form the current expenses fiasco – this marks them out from other parties.

    Secondly, they have put a system in place which PREVENTS individuals benefiting from expenses claims – this also marks them out from other parties.

    There is no need for a “bye-ball” just a straight dealing with the KNOWN facts rather than your indulging in a spot of ‘futuring’ as you oft describe it as to what MIGHT be going on.

    Given that you were also talking up PoshBoyDC for his ‘leadership’ qualities as he sits amongst the wreckage of a public relations disaster for his party it is certainly reasonable for others to praise SF for having the foreseight and principle to avoid a similar plight.

  • dewi

    “Nor do we know if they pay the tax liability on the original income, or on the residue left them by the party. That’s one I would particularly like to see an answer to.”

    On the original income – taxed at source – like everybody else who works.

  • Rory Carr

    Quite right, Dewi.

    Sinn Féin MP’s parliamentary salary would be taxed at source, as you say, like everyone else who receives a salary. The Inland Revenue would have it no other way.

    The excess above the “average industrial wage” which each MP then draws under party rules is donated to the party. As Aleksander Meerkat might have it, “Seemples, sqqcch!”

  • “I think Conor Murphy said he hadn’t been there in a year..”

    The newspaper reported that the legislators claim 9,000 pounds ($13,600) a month toward renting a pair of barely used two-bedroom properties in London. The newspaper quoted real estate agents as estimating the two properties’ actual rental value at nearer 3,200 pounds ($4,800) a month.

    Sinn Fein politician Conor Murphy, who said he has stayed in the properties just once in the past year, said on Monday that the flats represented “fairly modest accommodation in a fairly modest part of London.” source

    This reads a bit like the DUP’s Ballymena offices offices story.

  • Seemples!

    So do those donating a whack of their taxed wages to Sinn Fein in order to be brought down to the mysterious ‘average industrial wage’ then also claim for the donation?

    SF members may not be making personal gain out of the scam going on but I daresay the party is, and in this climate that difference is not going to matter much to the taxpayer.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sam,

    “there is NO evidence that SF MPs perosnally benfited form the current expenses fiasco”

    Claiming over the odds for a house you didn’t stay in once in a whole year is not ‘innocent’. In the outside world it would be considered fraud. Even in the arcane world of the House of Commons it is worthy of investigation.

    Now, I do not like any of this. It’s pretty small beer compared to the way the banks are trousering large amounts of public cash and still allowing themselves salaries way above that of MPs. It’s also a crisis be stoked by people whose politics is profoundly anti politics.

    Distraction, I’d call it. But once out in the open, the problems uncovered should be resolved in a way that enhances the power and legitimacy of elected politicians, not one that reduces it. I sense the difference between one outcome and the other is delicately balanced.

    Back to Sinn Fein. I do not like the cookie swiping anology, primarily because it gives the impression that the party has not made a great deal of its own luck by hard work and a degree of foresight that is quite plainly missing from their opponents. But it does cut a figure of rapacious mendacity that goes down very poorly with voters in the south (however well it goes down in hard pressed core Republican areas in Northern Ireland).

    Ken,

    “Whatever happened to presumption of innocence.”

    Pete has laid out a prima facae case that the party is in actual breach of the rules as they stand, unlike the Moate builders and the property flippers who where acting within the rules.

    “If the original expenses claims are sound, then whatever is claimed further down must also be sound.”

    Well, according to “strict accounting procedures” of the House of Commons, the Moate was a legitimate expense. So was Hazel Blears’ avoidance of CGT.

    But explain to me how is it not a benefit, if not to the MP, then some person or persons who is/are creaming in the rent way over the odds?

    Playing bagman to some person or persons unknown is no protection to the view that something very screwy is going on here.

  • Rory Carr

    “So do those donating a whack of their taxed wages to Sinn Fein …. then also claim for the donation?”

    The answer to that, Seemples, is NO! One may not make any claim for relief for political donations.

    The rich and powerful when they make massive donations to the major parties do so in the hope of profiting and making material gain via government contracts or easing of tax dodging regulations and social advancement in the form of honours and peerages.

    As to the rental property arrangements that Mick has so much difficulty understanding – the property is rented so that it might be available to Sinn Féin MP’s (and presumably their aides) as and when needed, which might be, as it certainly has been over the years, at the drop of a hat as crisis after crisis arose with unionist backtracking on the Good Friday Agreement. The alternative would be to seek unsuitable hotel accomodation which might not even be available in the tourist season and which would not provide the security and privacy required for them to carry out their responsibilities to their constituents and continue with their unstinting efforts to carry forward the peace process in the teeth of fearful intransigence and bad faith.

    As I said in an earlier post when Brian first highlighted the Telegraph’s reportage of SF Members’ expense claims, the necessity to squirm and spin in a feeble attempt to smear Sinn Féin is precisely because the light of their probity is too glaring as it exposes the dark recesses of the other parties’ grubbiness.

  • kensei

    Mick

    Pete has laid out a prima facae case that the party is in actual breach of the rules as they stand, unlike the Moate builders and the property flippers who where acting within the rules.

    Context. It might have caused a minor furore and forced SF to either move to cheaper accommodation or renting in a vacuum. I doubt very much that their core vote would be even slightly pulsed by it. In the context of the other revelations it’s a minor matter, unless you can show the party or its members profiting. That is the big distinction. The people who played strictly within the rules profited personally from the public purse. There is, as yet, no suggestion SF have done that. As and until you can prove it, this remains a footnote.

    I am staggered I have to point this out.

    Well, according to “strict accounting procedures” of the House of Commons, the Moate was a legitimate expense. So was Hazel Blears’ avoidance of CGT.

    You are missing the point. SF have not claimed for moats. They have not claimed CGT; they rent the properties. In the interaction between SF and the public purse, there are no transaction we know of that dubious, bar they have overpayed for renting of houses. What SF allows its members to claim from it does not affect the interactions with the public purse. It can’t magically make those transactions dubious. The money goes to the landlord, not SF. There is no way they can then give that money to representatives for moats. It’s impossible. You have to prove the money is not going where they say it is or that the claim is wrong in the first instance.

    Again, this is not rocket science.

    But explain to me how is it not a benefit, if not to the MP, then some person or persons who is/are creaming in the rent way over the odds?

    Playing bagman to some person or persons unknown is no protection to the view that something very screwy is going on here.

    Any evidence of fraud, kickbacks or that the money is not going where they say it is. Conlict of interest connection? Nope? Until you can, all you have is insinuation.

    Nevin

    This reads a bit like the DUP’s Ballymena offices offices story.

    Again, all that is smear. That story that developed only because more facts came to light that demonstrated people profiting from the public purse. If you want to make that connection here, you’d need to do a fair bit more digging.

    There are 4 scenarios I see for overpayment:

    1. They are kickbacks involved with the MPs personally profiting. This would be very bad.
    2. The houses are owned by a republican or republicans and they are overpaying as a favour or something. Not quite as bad, but bad.
    3. There is some kickback but its going to the party. Band and all that, but I doubt their electorate will particularly care.
    4. They are paying for something we don’t know about, like security.

    Could believe any of them, but find 1 unlikely. SF do not have to prove themselves innocent, and that applies in equally in a witch hunt. The people who want to run with it need to up their game.

  • The Third Policeman

    I think when we talk of how none of this will bother SF’s electorate we need to remember that their vote is not what is was in the 50s, or indeed the 80s. SF now cast a considerably wide net in the north and represent far more than the old diehard Republican population. I would imagine a large number of SF voters do care if the government (and therefore the taxpayers) are being cheated.

    Now I agree with Kensei here, there is no evidence of SF personally profiting from the whole thing, but if there’s no smoking gun, the press have certainly hung up a cordite airfreshner. And this is the danger for the Shinners, do you honestly see all of Martin’s voters in Mid Ulster slapping him on the back and saying “burn dem alive over there!”? I would have my doubts that it would even play like that in wee houses in the Falls. SF need to do all they can to avoid looking like the Gombeen men of Labour and Tory.

    However, a couple of things need sorted first. How do we know these properties are being over priced? Who exactly did the Tele consult on that? Has anyone questioned their figures? Maybe they asked a very cheap estate agent! Secondly, the issue of how ofetn the flats are used, was it really just a case of asking neighbours had they seen the Famous Five hanging about? Hardly very scientific is it?

  • kensei

    TTP

    SF’s net is certainly wider and they do want to avoid being labelled as cute hoors for the South as much as anything else. But I think people will look at SF and look at some of the other stuff going on, especially compare £100 a week DUP and compare appropriately. What would seriously have an impact? Personal profit or money being funnelled to dubious sources I could see damage; if it’s going to the party I think perhaps a bit but less so, especially with all the stuff SF don’t get it can be played slightly better.

    There are intangibles here. There can be biggish deviations from “average” and cleaning costs money but it is hard to get to 2.5x.

  • dewi

    Regular electronic sweeping maybe – could be costly.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    the public are outraged at politicians personally benefiting from the expenses system – which they themselves gave birth to – whether or not they actually broke rules. This is the substantive issue that you are deliberately avoiding – it affects all Irish Unionist parties and the main British parties – but not SF.

    The disenchantment with politicians because of the belief “that they are all out for themselves” does not apply to SF. Any fair reading of the situation – based on the known facts would conclude that a party which had designed a system to avoid the current debacle would be subject to recognition of that.

    The only poster on this site that has given that recognition, who is not from the Nationlaist side of the fecne is New Blue a UU/Tory supporter.

    For Pete to do this thread and not put SF’s position in this overall context smacks of annoyance that his ideological opponents had been seen to best postitioned to avoid the fallout of the damage done to the political system in Britain and in Norn Iron.

    I would be interested to see Turgon’s take on this if he does a thread, as he is someone who is scrupulously fair-minded and bases his analyis solely on the facts.

  • The Third Policeman

    I would be interested to see Turgon’s take on this if he does a thread, as he is someone who is scrupulously fair-minded and bases his analyis solely on the facts.

    He’s a fundamentalist Christian!

  • fin

    The industrial wage drawn by SF salaried employees is circa £320-330 per week.

    My understanding is donations to a political party are tax deductable so SF members will only pay tax on the amount they retain.

    To my knowledge travel and accommadation is organised and paid centrally and day to day expenses are claimed back from the party.

    The SF bashers here are relying on the word of an unknown “local estate agent” and are stretching credability. Also although SF have continously stated hat the cost involves bills, council tax, cleaning etc (and I’m sure VAT) Mick, Pete and others refuse to recognise this.

    I’m not sure but to my knowledge it is perfectly legit for the MPs admin and lobbying staff to use the porperties if working on Parlimentary business.

    The really interesting fact about this is that SF are the only party who refuse to take an oath to serve the Queen and are the cleanest party involved in the expenses scandal. Perhaps it is time for all MPs who exist on the taxes and votes of the common people to be made to swear an oath to work first and foremost for the common people.

    All roads lead to Buck Palace in this scandal.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    The Third Policeman

    He’s a fundamentalist Christian!

    So fecking what?

  • The Third Policeman

    Turgon… bases his analyis solely on the facts.

    This is what’s feckin what!

  • dewi

    “My understanding is donations to a political party are tax deductable”

    I don’t they are Fin. I’ll do some research.

  • Rory Carr

    You think correctly, Dewi. Fin’s “understanding” would more correctly be called his misunderstanding. Political donations in the UK are most certainly not allowable as a deduction against income tax. And indeed it would be quite intolerable if they were to be so as it would make the parties even more the malleable whores of the rich than they already are. If indeed that is possible.

  • fin

    I do apologise Dewi, they’re not deductable, however its been discussed several times.

  • Pete Baker

    It would appear that some people need a reminder of what the Additional Costs Allowance is supposed to be for.

    “The Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) reimburses Members of Parliament for expenses wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred when staying overnight away from their main UK residence (referred to below as their main home) for the purpose of performing Parliamentary duties. This excludes expenses that have been incurred for purely personal or political purposes.”

    And if that’s not clear enough, given the infrequent use of these properties by the SF MPs who claimed back £21,600 each, here’s another point from the MPs’ Green Book, on ACA

    Can you pay my bills direct? No, you must pay them yourself and claim reimbursement from us.

    As for the “no personal gain” line.. Well, the MPs are the ones claiming this money as reimbursement for their personal expenditure in the course of Parliamentary duties. It’s not the party’s entitlement allowance.

    But, of course, since they too are “good” republicans..

  • Dave

    According to The Sunday Telegraph, the flat that Gerry and Martin rent for £3,600 a month has an open market value of just £1,400 a month and the house that the other three Shinner MPs rent has open market value of just £1,800 a month but is rented for £5,400 a month.

    “Sinn Fein said its costs for the two properties included parking, utility bills and housekeeping as well as rent, and were therefore not comparable to market rates.”

    Clearly then, they were not entitled to claim for extra services that they claim are included in the rent and that explain why they agreed to pay a rent that is 257% higher than market value for Gerry and Martin and 300% higher than market value for the other three MPs. They should be forced to repay these wrongly claimed expenses.

    The taxpayer is paying them £9000 a month when the actual cost should be no more than a couple of nights per month in the local Travelodge. It just shows the contempt that they have for the taxpayer.

    It isn’t known if the landlord is actually getting the exorbitant rents that the Shinners are claiming but if he is then there needs to be a full investigation as to why the Shinners agreed to pay these exorbitant rents at the expense of the taxpayer. They should also be forced to repay the difference between market value and they price they forced the taxpayer to pay. If the landlord isn’t getting the rent that the Shinners are claiming, then it is a straightforward case of expenses fraud.

  • kensei

    #

    It would appear that some people need a reminder of what the Additional Costs Allowance is supposed to be for.

    And rent for a house clearly comes under that. The infrequency of use is and always will be a minor issue. There are sound reasons for not wanting a hotel, particularly if you are in sensitive peace process negotiations. If you want to take issue with SF getting special treatment, complain about the Labour Government that granted the privilege.

    As for the “no personal gain” line.. Well, the MPs are the ones claiming this money as reimbursement for their personal expenditure in the course of Parliamentary duties. It’s not the party’s entitlement allowance.

    I’ll try again. Have you any evidence that the money is not going to where they say it is, Pete? Because if you don’t, then neither the party or the individuals benefit. The beneficiary is the landlord. Now there are scenarios where that might lead somewhere bad, but right now, you got nothing. Show me the money, Pete.

    In any case, technicality. I know you fucking love them, but technically claiming for the moat is alright. The outrage is because what people did was morally wrong. And unless you can apply that standard to SF, it isn’t the same.

    Oh and you have a really annoying habit of repeating yourself. Do you think we couldn’t read the first fucking time, Pete? If you’ve nothing new it’s just being a dick.

  • Big Maggie

    “Turgon… bases his analysis solely on the facts.

    This is what’s feckin what!”

    I feel moved to come to Turgon’s defence. I don’t visit Slugger all that often but I do find that Turgon is as “Sammy etc” claims. So what if he’s a fundamentalist Christian? He can believe in all that shite if he wants but I don’t see it interfering with his very measured posts here.

  • It is morally wrong trying to attempt to bomb and shoot people into a political outcome against their will. It is morally wrong to sustain a twisted, disgusting ideology by subscribing to the antithesis’ institutions.

  • Big Maggie

    Chekov,

    Hard to disagree with what you say. But what relevance has it to this discussion?

    Only asking.

  • Mick Fealty

    Can I just deal with the conspiracy theorists first. Sinn Fein are incidental victims in this, not the primary target here. The biggest ‘victims’ are the two main parties in Britain: primarily Labour and the Conservatives.

    My suspicion is that Labour were the intended victims, but the Tories have suffered too. That said, Campaign headquarters have been prepared for months for trench warfare, and will certainly weather it out, whilst Labour collapses under the weight of the revelations.

    But if we are writing screeds about everyone else, why should Sinn Fein get a bye ball?

    Rory argues that the properties are rented so they ‘might be available’?’ Ken says that ‘the infrequency of use is and always will be a minor issue.’

    But Conor did not use the property at all in one full year, and still he claimed his share of the rent. Others, we know from their travel claims, barely used them either.

    If the MPs were not using them, how can they have been used in furtherance of their representative business? Add to that rents which strangely match the maximum claimable by the MPs, and you have a trail of footsteps that (for now) inexplicably end at a brick wall.

    I’m not going to get into speculation as to whether this is more damaging than Robo’s food expenses, that’s a matter of opinion rather than fact. But this particular problem is entirely unique to SF non sitting MPs.

    It should be said though that the diversion of resources aimed at building the representative capacity of MPs and MLAs into building permanent party assets is wider than Sinn Fein.

    It’s a common practice in Europe and is followed by other parties in Northern Ireland.

  • Big Maggie

    Mick,

    “My suspicion is that Labour were the intended victims, but the Tories have suffered too.”

    My own suspicion is more prosaic. The Telegraph was offered several CDs containing hundreds of thousands of MPs’ expenses dating back four years. The seller (probably an underpaid and therefore disgruntled office junior) wasn’t interested in which party stood to lose most. He or she only cared about the money to be made.

    Sadly for our democracy so did many of the MPs exposed.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    “But if we are writing screeds about everyone else, why should Sinn Fein get a bye ball? ”

    The substantive issue here is public outrage at MPs lining their own pockets by abuse of the expenses system.

    Firstly, do you agree with that?

    Secondly, if so, do you accept that SF MPs, based on the known information have not had a glove laid on them on THIS the substantive issue?

    Thirdly, SF has a system in place to deal with this issue i.e. the substantive one. Do you accept that?

    Of course it is reasonable to question what the Partys rental arrangements are but to try and equate politicians trousering thousands of pounds with POSSIBLE overcharging at party level simply does not hold water.

    Please consider the old sluggeronian whataboutery quote below when answering.

    “Evasion may not be the intention but it is the obvious effect. It occurs when individuals are confronted with a difficult or uncomfortable question. The respondent retrenches his/her position and rejigs the question, being careful to pick open a sore point on the part of questioner’s ‘tribe’. He/she then fires the original query back at the inquirer.”

  • Mick Fealty

    BM.

    I am certain you are right, so far as it goes with the Telegraph story. But over the last year the Westminster Opposition has been raising the stakes for politicians generally, with attacks on the probity of government which turn out to have considerable blow back on themselves. Daniel Kawczynski’s embarrassing grandstanding was a perfect case in point. The Grand Old Duke of York ploy with the Speaker.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sam,

    you’re asking me to make a comparative judgement on which is worse. I’m interested in making a qualitative judgement on this precise issue.

    Someone kindly quoted me at a seminar last Monday at City Uni in London: http://url.ie/1kw1

    “truth is more useful than balance” in journalism – “one truth at a time is enough”

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    “you’re asking me to make a comparative judgement on which is worse.”

    No – the fecking dogs on the street KNOW which is worse, I am asking you and Pete to stop obfuscating and admit it.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sam,

    See my last…

  • fin

    “truth is more useful than balance”

    or possibly facts Mick, the facts are that 5 SF MPs rent 2 properties in London.

    with regards to the neighbours they said that although they hadn’t seen the MPs often, lots of young professions came and went from the house, are the rules structured that only the MP (and family) my use the property or can it be used by the MPs staff if on Parlimentary business.

    Its curious because the Telegraph went quite deep on this story investigating rental values and the MPs attendence at the properties, but, made no comment about the use of the townhouse by others.

    Another curious fact is that they spoke to a estate agent, a single individual, to find the ‘true’ rental value, yet most people renting or buying a property would use one of several property websites available. Is the use of a third person a ploy to avoid responsibility for the figure given.

  • Mick Fealty

    Fin,

    None of that concerns me, though it may become pertinent later. I’m concerned about what we actually know about the case, not what is hearsay and partial.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    fin,

    the British parties have been caught with their fingers in the till – and with the exception of the UU supporter New Blue not a single non-nationalist poster (that I have seen ) on Slugger has had the fair mindedness to praise SF for their policy which is designed to avoid this type of corruption and potential loss of faith in their elected leaders.

    The ‘whataboutery’ of the ‘editorial’ line is very disappointing.

  • fin

    Mick, the facts are that 5 SF MPs rent 2 properties between them, do we know any other facts?

    I agree totally Sammy, I also think the Telegraph publishing the SF expenses first with added spin from an anon estate agent was done for a reason, had they been last on the list and only the facts published it would have been a non-story.

  • Mick Fealty

    Fin,

    One of them did not use his in a year. The others, from their records, barely went to London on Parliamentary business; yet someone is drawing rent from them for two flats they barely use.

    Further Pete outlines at the top why this might be considered a breach of the rules as they already stand.

    First? Not if my own recollection is correct. We’re about 9/10 days into this story. I think the SF only hit the front page on day 3 (though I’ll happily take a correction on that). This is a side show to where the real political action is, but an important one nonetheless.

    The public interest is clear enough, a prima facae case of nonfeasance/misfeasance.

    Sam,

    Look at the story at the top. It’s about SF’s claims, not the Robo’s, or the mainstream UK parties’. Google ‘whataboutery’ if you are in any doubt as to what it means.

  • fin

    Mick, I could be wrong, I thought SF were the first party profiled.

    Are the MPs the only ones allowed to use the properties, ie if a member of the MPs staff travel to London on Parlimentary business are they barred from using the property and obliged to book into a hotel.

    The reason I ask is in one of the pdf docs linked SF staff have made numerous journeys, possibly to London, no idea on duration.

    As I said previously the neigbours are quoted as saying “….that the yellow-brick house was a rental property where young professionals appeared to come and go”

  • Rory Carr

    Mick urges Sam to familiarise himself with a clearer understanding of ‘whataboutery’ and suggests that in order to see that this thread is not in this category he should, “Look at the story at the top. It’s about SF’s claims, not the Robo’s,…”.

    But it is precisely the timing of the “story” (or thread rather) which makes some of us read a deal of ‘whataboutery’ into it, seeing that timing, days after the revelations of SF’s expenses had been debated to death and when now the Robinson’s were in the firing line and it was clear that there was anger all across the board at their claims, what happens?

    Why Pete comes back into the fray with a nicely timed deflection which we might suppose with charity was designed ‘to restore balance’ but might just suspect was designed to take the heat of the Robinson’s and give succour those very ‘whataboutery’ enthusiasts who might just happen to wear unionist blinkers.

    Furthermore Pete has NOT demonstrated that SF’s property rentals are a breach of the rules as they already stand, nor could he have in fact for their is no evidence available in the public domain to support such a charge, nor given that the two properties are made available on constant standby for the use of five MP’s and their aides is there likely to be any evidence other than shows good stewardship and accomodation management on the party’s behalf.

    And, I say again, it is the example of this prudence that rankles most for the way it exposes the shortcomings and self-serving of others and thus yet another feeble attempt to not only include SF among the general body of rotters but somehow to make them appear worse in order that the real rotters might silently slope off while we are so diverted.

  • Pete Baker

    Rory

    Thank you for your latest attempt at mind-reading.

    But if you have a problem with the timing of my post I’d suggest you take that up with Gerry Adams.

    This post, after all, was in response to his statement.

  • Rory, how is paying three times the going rate an example of ‘the exercise of good judgment, common sense, and even caution, especially in the conduct of practical matters’?

    Where do the proceeds of republican organised crime feature in the political arrangements of the Provisional Republican Movement? Do you suppose Gerry Adams would tell us? Would you believe him?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    “Look at the story at the top. It’s about SF’s claims, not the Robo’s, or the mainstream UK parties’. Google ‘whataboutery’ if you are in any doubt as to what it means. ”

    In my previous post I specifically asked if you accepted that the ‘story’ relating to SFs rental arrangements was essentially and qualitatively different from those relating to the trousering of dosh by the mainland political parties. Your answer, such as it was, is and example of ‘whataboutery’ in that it simply ignores the question and again directs us back to the ‘allegations’ against SF.

    Pete has often struggled with presenting the facts in their correct context and seems to believe that if enough attention is given to detail (an old spin doctor trick) the bigger picture will be obscured. This thread, dealing as it does with the position of a political party on the expenses fiasco should clearly put the ALLEGATIONS against them in the context of the overall debate of PROVEN/ADMITTED wrong doing.

  • Mick Fealty

    Rory. Dear Rory. New releases, like cinema releases, no longer are a viable way to control the way people consume news. When I was a kid, you could only expect to see a US film six months after it was released in Hollywood (USA that is).

    Digital technology has changed all that. General release now more or less has to be worldwide, because otherwise you give the pirates and endlessly copyable DVDs a free reign in markets you used to make wait for 6 months or a year.

    In politics, the whole news cycle has been disrupted. Leave blog out of it for a moment, that means the most successful players in the news market are those who provide niche services and are able to stick with stories long after the generalist publications have had to put their journalists to other uses.

    Blustering through a story and then waiting for the cycle to past, is no longer viable strategy in a digital age, where everything can (where there is a will) be remembered (like the Robo quote above from four years ago).

  • Mick Fealty

    Sam,

    Go and read your own post again, this time combing for the sleight of hand…

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    when the plain English chappies come knocking on your door armed with a warrant I take it you wont be too suprised?

  • Mick Fealty

    Sam,

    I’ll pass them on to you Sam… 😉

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    well you are a game fecker at least.

  • Dave

    Rory, look at 3.3.1. Principles in the thread’s topic. It imposes a responsibility on members “to obtain value for money from accommodation”. How you can whistle out of every orifice you fancy in your self-appointed role as Shinner apologist, but you can’t make it stick that paying 257% higher than market value for Gerry and Martin’s trough and 300% higher than market value for the other trough is “value for money” and therefore not a breach of the rules. The Shinners accept that have paid over the odds but they’re trying to claim that they did so to include expenses that they were not entitled to claim under the rule. Own goal. They should now be forced to repay the difference.

  • “I’ll pass them on to you Sam… ;-)”

    Is this what is meant by touting? 😉

  • fin

    So Mick, Dave and Nevin, your arguement is based on an unknown question to an unknown estate agent, and this you call facts to damn SF. Can you tell me what area we are talking about, what standard of accommadation and what question was asked of the estate agent, who was the estate agent and what did he based he answer on. FFS I spoke to a bloke in the pub today and he said SF have come out of this smelling of roses, so can you now change your arguement to reflect this new response from an unknown man in the street. Whoops, no, because the answer doesn’t fit for you,

  • Mick Fealty

    Fin,

    The DT story you keep referring to has NO bearing whatsoever on my argument.

    And you post the same public perception question I’ve been refusing to answer from Sammy.

    We know from experience that public perception and reality can be far removed from one another (Pete was excoriated here for over a year for his deadline/timetable distinction on devolution of P&J until he was proven right, and Gerry and Martin wrong by how events actually passed).

    Pertinent facts consist of: 1 MP admitting he only stayed one night in a flat rented under the understanding it was for his use; little evidence of the flat rented by other MPs used for their original purpose.

    It is also relevant that said MP is also a Minister in an Executive which is being asked to make significant savings.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    “Pete was excoriated here for over a year for his deadline/timetable distinction on devolution of P&J until he was proven right, and Gerry and Martin wrong by how events actually passed”

    Self Praise is no…etc and the above is self-serving nonsense. Pete and you consistently (and deliberately) missed the actual politics of the situation on this by not recognising that the DUP could slow down the process but would have to yield to SF and British government pressure on the issue as was pointed out to both of you repeatedly and which both of you dismissed as ‘futuring’. In November Robbo set the process underway after precisely that pressure.

    So back to your next exercise in deflection. There is feck all comparison between allegedly not obtaining value for money and trousering money for personal gain. It is quite silly to try and hide behind some self-serving-crpyto-journalistic-principle and start talking in tongues rather than answer a simple question.

    Get a fecking grip on your-editorial-knickers.

  • qubol

    Mick, I can’t believe that you and pete can actually get this one so wrong and be so out of touch. You guys need a holiday or something, I don’t think you have a clue about this, I mean, even your ridiculous obsession with 3.3.1 is wrong.

    For a start Conor Murphy and the other SF MPs have made available this accommodation for their staff so to create the impression that this one property has been lying empty bar one visit from Conor Murphy is disingenuous. It’s used by the SF MP’s and their staff, even the bloody Telegraph admit people are coming and going.

    In the course of all the negotiations in the last few years SF have a clear need for accommodation to be ready at the drop of a hat. It’s ridiculous to suggest they could go to a hotel especially given their very real security concerns.

    thirdly I wouldn’t be surprised if, as suggested before, some of these costs are down to security and electronic sweeping. Perhaps if British Intelligence didn’t have such a track record of snooping on elected representatives then you could dismiss this. However, we know that the British have tried and mostly likely still do. In this context I think it’s entirely fair that the privacy of their business be protected, at tax payer expense. For fairly obvious reasons they’re unlikely to talk about this.

    Finally as has also been mentioned, are we to seriously base all our arguments on the word of an estate agent (a big ask at the best of times) picked by the SF loathing, Telegraph??? Get real.

    In addition to all of that, despite what you think about how they have broken the rules their constituency won’t give a shit and that’s the only concern for anyone in this whole mess.

  • Not impressed

    If this is the best of the rebuttal SF can muster they are in deep doo-doo

  • Mick Fealty

    But Sammy, you were wrong in every single aspect of that story. You even gave us dates even after the May ‘deadline’ (end of 08 as I recall).

    Pete, to my certain knowledge has never expressed a view on what should happen or what is likely to happen. Even after the 154 missing days, nothing visible has shifted, but that is not to imply that it never will. The key is that the DUP will decide, not Brown, Adams or Cameron.

    That has not changed since the night Gerry did that marathon run abour the news studios waving a piece of paper with the 8th May last year written on it claiming otherwise.

    Now you are majoring on a side question, ie which is the bigger crime: personal trousering or corporate trousering?

    Answer: I don’t care. I care about each story as it arises. If you ask me to ‘future’ about this one, I’d say it won’t do the party any harm in its base, but it will do some marginal damage in the suburbs where people care more about tax burdens (and that concern will grow as taxpayer’s both sides of the border carry the burden of bailing out bankers long into the future). Yellow voters going white, rather than green turning yellow. Medium term, it has probably killed off Sinn Fein’s negotiated special status at Westminster.

    As for the esoteric comparisons with the abuse of personal allowances, that is in some ways a more interesting story with a completely separate dynamic of its own. British politicians are talking big consequences, and that 19% rating for UKIP may only be the tip of a nasty European iceberg.

    The Week In Westminster tonight had a very interesting exchange between Dan Hannan, Richard Corbett and Caroline Lucas. Well worth catching up with. But I don’t for moment intend letting it obscure the questions raised by SF’s quite different set of problems arising from this ‘scandal’..

    Night all… I have work to do before bed…

  • Kensei

    One of them did not use his in a year. The others, from their records, barely went to London on Parliamentary business; yet someone is drawing rent from them for two flats they barely use.

    Presumably the contract is in place before usage rates were known; presumably also any party ir standards committees could have objected any time And we are back at – is it reasonable for SF to want a permanent base of operations rather than hotels, especially during peace process negotiations? If you can honestly say yes then this issue muddies a lot. And still unlikely to do the big damage things like flipping have.

    The question of whether staff on parliamentary business are entitled to use the property also seems a quite important question here, Mick. You are the one with the contacts, how about getting some answers for a change.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    “Pete, to my certain knowledge has never expressed a view on what should happen or what is likely to happen. Even after the 154 missing days, nothing visible has shifted, but that is not to imply that it never will. The key is that the DUP will decide, not Brown, Adams or Cameron.”

    The DUP even admitted – directly after they signalled movement on this issue in November – that they had to play ball or risk papal influnce from the ROI.

    The idea that Unionism would be allowed to hold up progress on the GFA/STA indefinitely is a nonsense and one of the few things we can thank an otherwise fairly disappointing Labour party for.

    Yes, I was wrong about how long the DUP could obstruct progress for just as you and Pete were wrong about the substantive issue that they would be pressurised into playing ball and instead indulged in a bout of pin-head dancing about timtables/deadlines that a political Michael Flatley would have been proud of.

    re. “Now you are majoring on a side question” the personal morality of politicans is at the very heart of this story – whether someone is on the make is absolutely central to the issue and pretending otherwise simply smacks of arguements of ideological convienience.

  • Mick Fealty

    Right, I know this is pulling me away from paid work, but…

    Yes, you were wrong Sammy. Consistently, and absolutely. The pinhead in question related to that is a timetable a deadline thing. It got dull and boring because of the amount of times the falsehood – that the two were the same – was repeated as though it were true.

    “Whether someone is on the make” or ‘some party’?

  • Mick Fealty

    We all done here then?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    oh, I nearly forgot – my favourite bit of that debate was when the SOS told the DUP that those holding up the transfer of police were endangering peace and because this didnt fit in with Pete’s analysis – ie that the DUP were free to make up their own minds about the issue – he actually published what the SOS said and crossed out all the words he didnt like. To be fair, all that pinhead dancing can take its toll.