Top-Up, Up And Away


Olivia-Mitchell-Travel Terry-Leyden-Travel

Tables created by journalist and lecturer Ken Foxe showing the cost of flights, hotels and unvouched expense claims – made by former Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell and Fianna Fáil senator Terry Leyden – for trips they made in 2015

You may have seen an article in yesterday’s Sunday Times in which Ken Foxe reported on the expense claims made by Dáil and Seanad members for their overseas travel in 2015.

These are tax-free unvouched expenses which don’t relate to the cost of hotels or flights, as those costs are paid by the Oireachtas.

Those who made the largest claims included Fianna Fáil senator Terry Leyden, who claimed €5,852 to cover eight trips, and former Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell, who requested €4,399 for nine trips.

Further to this.

How can Irish politicians claim up to €260 per day in unvouched tax-free expenses when abroad?

Ken Foxe explains:

Subsistence claims on certain types of overseas travel for politicians can end up being particularly high because of a top-up scheme, which allows large daily payments dependent on the destination city.

For example, meetings of the Council of Europe in Paris are paid at a daily rate of €146 with a top-up of 80%, bringing the daily rate to €262.

The enhanced rates are designed to cover the cost of so-called “casual entertaining”, and were first introduced in the 1950s.

The existence of these top-up rates has been questioned by the Comptroller and Auditor General on two separate occasions but they have not been reformed. The scheme is unique to politicians, and is not replicated in any other part of the public service.

Sound familiar?

*Click link below to see a table of all expenses claimed by members of Dáil and Seanad for overseas trips in 2015.

How Irish politicians are able to claim up to €260 per day in unvouched tax-free expenses when abroad (No Expenses Spared, Ken Foxe)

35 thoughts on “Top-Up, Up And Away

  1. Harry Molloy

    Seems excessive but I would like to know the costs of breakfast, lunch, dinner around such areas.

    For example, I thought I was laughing with a £50 per diem allowance going to London with work but usually went over it, as I would be in Canary Wharf or City of London and having to eat out three times a day.

    That said, the costs in the piece really do seem excessive…

  2. jonotti

    These amounts are entirely reasonable but maybe not to a jobless wonder who has no clue about business. At least hit the target if you’re going to have a shot.

      1. jonotti

        Costs increased due to additional admin burden. The daily rates are carefully set by city and are there to compensate a person and not make them a profit.

      2. The Real Jane

        Yeah but when it comes to the amounts we’re talking about, vouching them would be a waste of money.

        1. Owen C

          I don’t understand why they cant be vouched like any other job in the world. I have to itemise all my expenses, down to a coffee or a bottle of water, when I go on business. Indeed, many thinks are not allowed at all, even if fairly reasonable in nature (ie a bottle of water from the mini bar is not allowed, breakfast has a cap of €15 which is generally less than what most hotels will charge)

          1. Rob_G

            I have to do the same thing, and I would say it almost costs my company more to pay me to spend the time filling out lines of an expense note for a €12 lunch than it would just to set a max unvouched expense and pay me that, so maybe there is something to the idea…

  3. 15 cents

    FG talking about reform before getting into power, and then the first thing Kenny did in power was to allow ministers use bus lanes. Might seem small, but as soon as i read that i knew theyd be the same. he got it thru and passed in days, yet they drag their heels on everything else… ya know.. stuff they dont benefit from personally.

  4. Funster Fionnanánn


    It’s the reason to become a TD.

    Don’t be jealous. The Irish love gravy.


  5. nellyb

    Mitchell clocked up €480 per trip including flights, it isn’t excessive for a gov representative. Hotels are expensive and, personally, I wouldn’t want our politicians booking a room via AirBnB or in Primier Inn.

  6. collynomial

    One wonders how much the top travelling executives of a private company are spending.
    I don’t mean to suggest that public officials should not be held to account when spending public money, and of course I understand that it is different, both in terms of the nature of their work as well the need for public scrutiny. But, before people start becoming enraged, it would be useful to have some sort of benchmark.

    Perhaps the Sunday Times, in the interest of making that comparison could provide the amounts spent by their own reporters over similar trips.

    1. Neilo

      In my private sector experience, bugger all. Shareholders don’t like to see cash being frittered away on beanos or anything else non-core that will eat away at the dividend.

  7. Ken F

    If they are not excessive – why has the Comptroller and Auditor General twice raised concerns over them when auditing Oireachtas expenses?
    This is entirely separate to hotel bills and flights just in case anybody is any doubt about that.
    Are you really suggesting that somebody attending presumably an all-day conference in Paris needs €262 to buy themselves lunch, dinner, and pay for a couple of taxis?
    And why exactly do they need to be 80% above the rates agreed for every single other public servant, except for politicians?

    1. The Real Jane

      Well, I don’t know. I imagine there are times when it might be considered advantageous to the Irish delegation to take someone out to dinner, for example. Personally I’d prefer if the Irish state wasn’t treating someone to a pizza and then pretending that they’ve lost their wallet.

      In the same spirit, if they need some dry cleaning done, I’m happy with that. We don’t all have to turn up like Danny Healy Rae.

      1. Ken F

        Here’s a crazy idea. How about they submit receipts instead when they come back and actually vouch for their expenditure? Instead of us making guesses about what somebody might be spending their €200-a-day on.

  8. Cup of tea anyone?

    If you want a comparison, Notice that Terry and Olivia went on the same trips.
    But Terry always expenses more for his trips. Actually always more then 100 on Olivia.
    They even both went to Strasbourg in June. Terry was there a day less an he still charged more then Olivia.

    1. Cup of tea anyone?

      One is FF one is FG. Guess which one wasted the most money?

      I suppose that is just the culture of the party they are in. Take what you can while you can. Would love to see expenses from Labour or SD for comparable trips.

  9. Anne

    I met a few TDs out one night in and around Temple bar.. dirty auld feckers with wads of cash.
    Wads. You could use um to wipe your as* if you ran out of toilet roll, type of wads.

    Had a great night, abusing the life out of um. They seemed used to it and didn’t take offence or anything.
    Great night..Free drink, free food and free entry into a private function.. thanks all.

      1. Anne

        They did.. The champagne was flowing, the wads of cash were never ending. Thanks Harold!

  10. ahjayzis

    You can be as sarky as you like about the supposed exborbitance of these paltry expenses – but have any of ye actually seen the price of cocaine and the overnight rates of continental whores these days?!

    Ye don’t know ye’re born.

  11. huh?

    Except the Council of Europe doesn’t meet in Paris, it’s in Strasbourg (and I admit to ignoring your point which is likely valid but I stopped reading after that mistake).

Comments are closed.