A SINN Féin TD is being paid an extra €16,000-a-year in unvouched tax-free expenses after she moved house following the general election.
Louise O’Reilly — a newly elected deputy in North Dublin — had originally given her home address in Crumlin in her formal declaration to Leinster House.
If she had been paid her travel and accommodation expenses on the basis of that address, she would have received just €9,000 per year like most Dublin TDs.
However, around a month after the election, she moved to Skerries in North County Dublin where she is now being paid a travel and accommodation allowance worth €25,295 annually.
The massive jump means the amount of expenses she receives monthly has jumped from €2,445.83 in March to €3,803.75 in each month since, according to Oireachtas records.
Both of these figures include a monthly payment of just over €1,695, which is paid to TDs irrespective of where they live and is designed to cover the costs of public representation.
In her second declaration to Leinster House, the Sinn Féin TD changed her address to her new home in Skerries, which is around a 35 kilometre drive from Leinster House.
That puts the new address firmly in what is known as Band 1 of the expenses system, which covers politicians living at least 25 kilometres but less than 60 kilometres from the Dáil.
She is one of fourteen TDs currently in that zone. One of them Labour’s Brendan Ryan, who also lives in Skerries, has been taking €445 less a month than what he is entitled to.
Ms O’Reilly said: “I was claiming for the address I was living at; it was less than twenty kilometres [from the Dáil]. That is the case … [it is] entirely in line with the Oireachtas rules.
“It is the case that I had to make a second declaration when I moved house. When my normal place of residence changed, that’s what we had to do.
“Once I moved house, I changed that — I filled out the form. I haven’t done anything that was not in line with procedures.”
Ms O’Reilly, who previously worked as a union official, said she had been involved in negotiating travel and subsistence payments on behalf of workers for years.
She said: “If there is going to be a review [of these expenses], I’m sure that will come up at the Oireachtas Commission.
“I’m more than willing to participate in it. I haven’t talked to them about, it, I have simply filled out the forms I was required to.”
The Sinn Féin TD had flagged in advance of the election that she was planning a move into the heart of her new constituency.
She explained in a statement: “I am planning a move to Fingal. The timeline of the move will take into consideration a number of factors, including my family.”
Travel and accommodation expenses have been the cause of considerable controversy because of the seemingly arbitrary but enormous jump in expenses between TDs living in Dublin and those in the commuter belt.
The Band 1 total of €25,295-a-year was originally calculated on the basis of 150 overnights paid at civil service rates, according to the Department of Public Expenditure.
In one instance, a Fianna Fáil TD Frank O’Rourke is being paid at the higher rate because he lives 500 metres above the threshold for Band 1 expenses.
If he had lived just one kilometre closer to Leinster House, he would have been paid €16,000 less each year.
In a statement, the Oireachtas has said the allowances also include money for constituency travel and that it is open to all TDs to pay back money at the end of the year if they wish.
The original version of this article appeared in the Irish Mail on Sunday at the weekend.