Politicians and silly expenses claims

In the news today we are told that Alan Shatter claimed €12 for passport photos on his expenses and also for injections he had to take before travelling. Now, let’s be honest here this isn’t the biggest news in the world. Nor will the country be facing ruination over the claim. It is far from the worst thing any politician has done. It does, however, raise the issue of expenses again. There will be a rush of people to slam … Read more

“Sinn Féin were not in court today. Councillor Kelly was, and he was acquitted of all charges.”

Entirely unrelated to Sinn Féin’s opposition to welfare reform… Last week a Deputy District Magistrate in Londonderry acquitted Sinn Féin Councillor Colin Kelly on charges of fraudulently claiming over £19,000 in Housing Benefit and Job Seekers Allowance between November 2010 and March 2014 – when he was a member of Derry City Council.  He is currently a councillor on the new Derry City and Strabane District Council for which the basic allowance is £14,200 p.a. – up from the previous allowance of £9,835 a … Read more

Within a constituency, are each MLA’s mileage claims of a similar size? No …

Annex B of the Independent Financial Review Panel’s most recent consultation document [the content of which I blogged about earlier] contains a table showing each MLA’s mileage expense claims for 2013/14 and 2014/15, along with the distance of their constituency office from Parliament Buildings. I’ve charted the 2014/15 mileage claims of the MLAs to help visualise the patterns and outliers. Note: MLAs receive a standard rate of Motor Mileage Allowance for business travel by car. The rates that may be … Read more

John O’Dowd: The only audit that matters to Sinn Fein is the voters…

I heard recently of an old Irish aristocrat who would never pour a drink for his guests, but instead he’d let them choose their own measures. Too little would betray caution or even distrust. Too much suggested voracity of appetite. John O’Dowd’s response to the finding from Spotlight documentary was that Sinn Fein’s £700k research that appears never to have been done is the only auditors worth listening to is the electorate: An interesting political angle. Telling the Assembly you … Read more

“…why else would MLA’s fail to protest when their office expenses are taken from them?”

As the Irish Times reports Former Minister of State, Ned O’Keeffe has been fined €3,500 and given a suspended seven month jail sentence after he pleaded guilty to five counts of submitting false invoices to claim over €3,700 in mobile phone expenses. O’Keeffe of Ballylough, Mitchelstown, Co Cork was arrested by gardaí this morning and brought before Cork District Court where he was charged with five offences contrary to Section 26 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act. … Read more

Questions arising for Sinn Fein from Tuesday’s Spotlight programme..

I’m just pinning these videos from the Sinn Fein end of Mandy McAuley’s two part Spotlight,  with minimal comment in part because I haven’t worked out what to think on the matter, and because I want to hear what you guys think. It’s worth doing so just to isolate the scale of that end of the problem. Firstly, there’s a wholly owned private company Research Services Ireland (£700k): Secondly a party bill for secretarial work of £3.7m: Then there are … Read more

Cartoon – Spencer on Tuesday

Last week Spotlight looked into Stormont expenses and the use public money to rent offices. Spotlight revealed that Sinn Féin paid office rent to three different cultural societies whose identity is unknown. The next *extended* instalment is tonight. The Firemen have last week’s here. Brian SpencerBrian is a writer, artist, political cartoonist and legal blogger. Actively tweeting from @brianjohnspencr. More information here: http://www.brianjohnspencer.com/ http://www.brianjohnspencer.com/

#SpotlightNI: Dodgy deals and private societies which turn out not to be what they seem…

Here’s a conversation involving Peter Weir of the DUP and Francie Molloy both trying to find ways to defend the otherwise indefensive on Spotlight last night… listen to ‘DUP's Peter Weir & SF's Francie Malloy react to Spotlight expenses investigation’ on audioBoom Now, I’m not a fan of expenses stories, but listening Peter Weir you would come to the conclusion that there was nothing to see here. Interestingly he cites a ‘public service’ argument conveniently ignoring the fact that the … Read more

All aboard the gravy train

We have just gone through an election for our new councils. Little did we know that while we were being talked to about the need for balanced budgets and battling austerity that some of our very own public representatives have been jetting off around the world and it appears for a few money has been no object. Sure, as our friends over at Pantene would say, you’re worth it! Tonight we name and shame some of the councillors and their … Read more

SDLP leader’s register of interest lapse ‘due to an administrative error…’

So after some ribbing on Twitter for not covering this story (try Googling it guys?), John Manley reports this morning that Alasdair McDonnell is in a bit of bother again, this time over not reporting income from a rental property he bought in London in 2005 when he was first elected: The South Belfast MP and MLA blamed “an administrative error” for the failure to declare his London apartment on the House of Commons register of interests. Dr McDonnell has … Read more

[Updated] Another summer storm in a teacup over an MLA’s expenses…

So there’s a stink about Conall McDevitt using his wife’s research company to pay for secretarial work, and research. Tara Mills for BBCNI has most of the detail… For 2010 and 2011 JM Consulting was paid significant sums of money for what was described as ‘research and secretarial’ work. JM Consulting is Joanne Murphy Consulting – she is a Queen’s University academic and also Mr McDevitt’s wife. But according to the assembly register for both years, when asked if any … Read more

Dail Expenses: So can a TD claim parliamentary expenses to help run a political campaign?

There’s been a fascinating twist in the TDs expenses story. Yesterday it seemed that three Socialist Party TDs were in hot water when they admitted they had used travel expenses to pay for their travel during their campaign against the Household Charge.  Today it may be the Oireachtas Commission which has the greater difficulties to face in explaining just what is hard and fast about its rules, and what might be ‘open to negotiation interpretation’. The Indo reports: THE entire … Read more

Sinn Fein now being investigated by both SIPO and the Oireachtas Commission…

Michael Brennan has been following up on the admission by both of Sinn Fein’s Donegal TDs that they’d been using travel expenses towards paying for local workers. It is now up to the Dail committee on members’ interests to investigate the redirection of travel expenses by Mr Doherty and Mr MacLochlainn — although it is likely to require a complaint from a member of the public in order to do this. And the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) has … Read more

“Is don Stát seachas don Pháirtí atá dílseacht gach TD dlite…”

Agus Concubhar Ó Liatháin ar an ábhar céanna de costais pháirtí, brón orm, speansais do TDeanna agus Sinn Féin… Cheapfá gur ceist shuarach í sin – agus glacaim leis gur ábhar cineál suarach é tuarastal ár dTeachtaí Dála, ceist a chuireann díospóireacht meánscoile i gcuimhne dhom – ach ceapaim féin go bhfuil sé tábhachtach a bheith cinnte gurb é an Stát – tusa agus mise – a fhostaíonn TD Shinn Féin seachas an pháirtí. Is don Stát seachas don Pháirtí … Read more

Paisley: I have nothing to apologise for…

And, it seems the former junior Minister is refusing to apologise for those £10,000 worth of free Assembly envelopes… North Antrim MLA Daithi McKay says he has questions to answer… and it seems he’s getting the same answer his own party gave after the Inkgate controversy… which is roughly, “I didn’t do anything wrong, now mind your own business…” Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the … Read more

Ian Junior claimed £10,000 in postage in his six last months in office…

Hmmm… First we had Inkgate, then Inkgate II … Now it’s the DUP’s turn to answer some awkward question regarding a spot of free riding by Ian Junior this time… According to Diana Rusk in today’s Irish News that equates to about 112 letters a day… In response the North Antrim MP said that that estimate would be about right, claiming that “I get 220 letters every single days. My post bag is incredibly heavy – ask my postman.” That … Read more

Printergate: “How many printers has he gone through to print 3 million pages?”

Well on one level it’s pretty small beer (compared to the Quinn story). On another almost risible. And much as I cannot stand expenses scandals for the sheer beside-the-pointless of, it’s worth mentioning the Aengus O’Snodaigh’s prodigious use of free printer toner from the Oireachtas revealed in an FOI. Some wit has already been at Aengus’ wikipedia page, adding: It was at UCD that Ó Snodaigh fell victim to an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with respect to collecting printer ink cartridges. … Read more

MP Nadine Dorries – politician or journalist?

Nadine Dorries - image from her website

And the award for political blogger of the year may have to go to … MP Nadine Dorries. Today, the BBC report that she explained away the discrepancy between her online comments that suggested “she spent the majority of her weekends in the constituency” and her statement to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards that “nearly all weekends were spent in her main home” with the memorable phrase: My blog is 70% fiction and 30% fact. Following complaints by a BNP … Read more

George Young on SF expenses: “Ahem, that would be an ecumenical matter…”

This is very interesting. The line on Sinn Fein’s expenses for their abstaining MPs from Sir George Young today in Parliament is no longer a matter for the Government but for the newly Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). Why is that interesting? Well, because, so far as I can see, the IPSA’s only role is to decide whether the expenses are legitimate, not who can claim. The inclusion of funding for Sinn Fein was taken by Parliament under the direction … Read more