TD/Senate expenses 1998 – 2008

[cross posted from]

No, we don’t have the expenses, yet anyway. But we have started the process. In August I sent the following FOI request to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission (the crowd who manage the Dail and Seanad):

August 17, 2009

Request for access to records under the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003

Dear Sir/Madam,

In accordance with Section 7 of the above mentioned Acts, I wish to request access to the following records which I believe to be held by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission (“the Commission”):

1) A breakdown of all expenses claimed by TDs broken down by TD and by the following calendar years: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997

2) A breakdown of all expenses claimed by Senators broken down by Senator and by the following calendar years: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997

3) The guidelines provided to TDs and Senators on how they can claim expenses. A guide as to what they are and are not allowed to claim and what documentation is required in order to claim expenses.

My preferred form of access to these documents is in digital format.

Given that much if not all of this information has already been found and produced I do not anticipate that any exemptions will be required nor that any further costs other than the standard €15 charge will be incurred.

If you decide to request further payment I would like to be provided with an itemised fees receipt outlining precisely why an additional cost is required.


Gavin Sheridan

I since received a phonecall, outlining that data from 2005 on (since it has been digitised), would be made available in September. So the other part of my FOI refers to information between 1997 (1998 really since the FOI Act does not cover 1997) and 2004, or stuff that has not been digitised and is sitting in boxes somewhere. Today I received an estimated cost for search and retrieval of this information.

There are two newsworthy snippets in the letter. First, the bad news:

“After consideration and consultations, I estimate that the services of staff members totalling 110 hours will be the minimum required to efficiently complete the search and retrieval work on the balance of your request for the years 1998 to 2004… The prescribed amount chargeable for each such hour is €20.95 resulting in a fee of €2,304. Additionally, it is estimated that a total of 3,200 pages containing the records for the period from 1998 to 2004 will have to be photocopied, resulting in a further charge of €136.00 with the overall fee amounting to €2,440.”

Yes, you read that right.

Second, the not so bad news:

“… there is a gap in in the hard copy records in respect of the period from January 1, 1998 to March 31, 1998. In addition, it is unclear that the final released data is available for the following periods as the material has not, as yet, been located:

April 1999 to October 1999
June 2000 to June 2001
July 2002 to June 2003

If you require retrieval of these records it is likely to involve a substantial number of man-hours and a corresponding increase in the fee to be charge. I would be grateful if you would let me know if you require those records.”

Why is this not so bad? Well the news aspect firstly. The Houses of the Oireachtas have so far been unable to locate expenses data for a combined period of 29 months. Eh? Not alone that, they want to charge me to find this information. Information that really should be in the public domain anyway. But we have to deal with the system we have…

Why do we want this data? Because we want a full historical account of all expenses claimed on record, for all national public representatives. It is also data that would be integrated into KildareStreet.

I’m gonna throw this question at our readers, what do you think we should do?

I have a few ideas on how to proceed, but I’d like to get some feedback first.

11 thoughts on “TD/Senate expenses 1998 – 2008”

  1. Suggestion off the top of my head Gavin. Ask readers to make a donation to cover the costs. If enough volunteer the nobody will be seriously out of pocket and the information will be available. I would certainly make a contribution.

    Also, do you think the high cost could be a 'Shane Ross strategy' to put you off?

  2. Gavin,
    I agree with Anthony, ask the readers to make a contribution, and pay the required amount. Then immediately seek legal advice on this extortion, and how to proceede with a legal challange, in a PUBLIC INTEREST case.
    As far as I am aware, if you take a case against the government, in THE PUBLIC INTEREST, then regardless of the result, costs have to be paid by the State.
    I for one would be happy to make a contribution to such a cause.

  3. Gavin – I agree. If enough cannot be raised to cover the full cost, start with the latest year and work backwards. Many of the 1998 mob will now be retired anyway.

    It is essential that they understand you are not going away. Their game is to make this as drawn out and costly as possible in the hope that you will go away. They have to be made to understand that their days of creaming it will be exposed and that this country needs to be cleansed of this culture. And this applies to the civil servants as well as the politicos

    I will contribute.

  4. I'd be happy to make a small donation towards these costs, say €10 at the outset and more if you're not getting the numbers needed. If you haven't a PayPal account, get one set up and put a Donate button in your sidebar.


  5. Hi Gavin,
    This is my first time reading your blog (through a link from Twenty Major this morning) and this post immediately engaged me. My first reaction was the same as the other comments above – ask readers to make a contribution so that the burden of cost is not on one person for information which will be made available to many.

  6. that was also the first thing i thought of.

    I'd gladly chuck in a tenner to see those details.

    perhaps ask a newspaper if they have ever asked for this information before, you would have thought that they would have, and that if they haven't they wouldn't mind stumping up some cash to find out too.

  7. “All of the costs are paid, not to the Minister, but to the service provider…:” according to O Donoghue,s statement yesterday.

    Not so. If you examine the detailed claims you will see repeated claims, and payments directly to John oDonoghue , his wife, and his Private Secretary.

    So even his explanation is in conflict with the truth. Why does no journalist pick this up.

  8. Commend you on this initiative Gavin and more than willing to make a donation if necessary. I'd strongly encourage you to submit a similar FOI application regarding the President's travel expenses (if possible?) – I think it might make a very interesting point of reference.

    According to an article by Patsy McGarry a while back, he travelled with her on a state visit to Berlin and she flew with Aer Lingus, economy class. In this context Junket Johnny's exploits look even worse.

  9. I'm good for a few bob also.

    Of course your income and expenditure would have to be open and accountable 🙂

    Ask for donations and see what comes of it.
    Worst case scenario you give the money back.

    By the way, thanks for the template FOI letter.

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