FINE Gael Minister Regina Doherty paid her own mother more than €2,000 for “secretarial assistance” out of a little-known allowance available to politicians.
The payment was made to her mum Maria Dalton last October through a single invoice that was issued for a total of €2,150.
The bill was part of more than €570,000 paid out by the Oireachtas through what is known as the special secretarial allowance.
It allows government ministers to pay for secretarial assistance, public relations advice, IT services, and for training.
TDs and Senators also sometimes use it to hire temporary vouched employees on short-term contracts instead of hiring full-time assistants.
Details of the payments released following an FOI request show that Regina Doherty spent €2,912.50 under the scheme, €2,150 of which went to her mother.
Repeated attempts to contact Ms Doherty for comment were met with no response.
The Fine Gael press office did not respond to queries from March 16 saying Ms Doherty was in the United Arab Emirates for St Patrick’s Day.
Requests for comment this week to the party press office, to her special adviser, and to Minister Doherty herself all met with no response either.
Two Fine Gael ministers hired a former party election candidate for secretarial assistance, paying him, and later his firm, a total of €18,200.
Both Damien English and Helen McEntee used the services of Sean McKiernan and then his company Consilium Communications for secretarial services last year.
Mr McKiernan is a former Fine Gael councillor in Cavan and ran for the Seanad in last year’s election, failing to win a seat.
Minister English said in a statement: “As part of the annual vouched allowance for Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, payments were made to Sean McKiernan, and subsequently to his business Consilium Communications, for the provision of secretarial assistance.”
Mr English also twice paid for public relations advice from Kevin Kinahan, a professional therapist and consultant hypnotherapist, from the Gold Clinic in Dublin.
Mr Kinahan was paid just over €1,100 across two invoices for PR services.
Minister Dara Murphy ran up a bill of €28,532 last year for public relations advice. He used the services of a Dublin-based businessman Declan O’Leary and his firm T/A Media Mentor.
One of the front-runners for leadership of the Fine Gael party, Simon Coveney, also ran up a small PR bill in the early part of last year.
Mr Coveney paid out just over €5,500 to the Cork-based firm Cameo Communications.
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald also used the special secretarial allowance for public relations advice.
She paid just over €11,000 out to the Communications Clinic, the firm that belongs to Terry Prone and her husband Tom Savage.
Ms Fitzgerald also paid out €2,400 to another firm called Latitude for what was described on the form she filled in for payment as “training”.
More than €9,000 was paid out on behalf of Junior Minister Patrick O’Donovan for public relations advice as well last year. He used PSG Communications, one of the country’s most successful PR firms.
Another minister to pay for PR advice was Fine Gael’s Pat Breen. He paid Claire Gallagher around €4,500 for public relations services in the final months of last year.
Katherine Zappone at the Department of Children also hired external PR help. She used the services of Dr Michael O’Loghlen who was paid €3,916 across four separate invoices from November and December of 2016.
In an explanatory note, the Oireachtas said the secretarial allowance could be used in two ways, for contracts for service or for temporary vouched employees.
A significant chunk of the €570,000 spent went on this type of employment, a cost that arises whether the staff or temporary or full time.
The Oireachtas said: “The purpose of the allowance is to assist towards expenses arising from the purchase of certain secretarial assistance, public relations, information technology (but not web related) and training services.
“The allowance may also be used for remuneration of persons providing secretarial services (i.e. temporary vouched employees). Purchase of equipment are not allowable under the special secretarial scheme. Ministers can opt for an annual fully vouched allowance of €41,092.”
*Some of the amounts referenced above are not reflected in the FOI documents I posted below.
Some of the records relating to the earlier part of last year were released on paper. And the invoices and receipts relating to the document below were issued as separate individual PDF files.
If anybody wants to see a specific one, feel free to contact me.