Two-phones Bertie says he's entitled to multiple claims
Ken Foxe – Sunday Tribune – July 25, 2010
Bertie Ahern has insisted he is entitled to make multiple claims for his mobile phone bill and travel expenses.
As a former taoiseach, Ahern has his mobile phone bill paid for by the taxpayer but is also in receipt of a separate telephone allowance as part of the general expenses regime for Dáil deputies.
He also has the use of a full-time car and driver, another arrangement that is put in place for all former taoisigh, but continues to claim travel expenses under the parliamentary allowance made available to all TDs.
Since a new expenses regime was introduced earlier this year, Ahern has been claiming the maximum unvouched amount allowable to
He has put in for €2,250 for each of the past three months under the new system, claiming a total of €6,750 tax-free.
His claim is the exact same as that of Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, constituency colleague Cyprian Brady, and independent TDs Finian McGrath and Maureen O'Sullivan.
However, unlike those four deputies – and other Dublin TDs in a similar position – Ahern has use of a free mobile phone and a full-time garda driver.
A statement from the Fianna Fáil press office said that the former taoiseach was not doing anything wrong and claiming only what he is entitled to. A spokesman said: "Bertie is not in receipt of a mobile phone allowance in his capacity as a TD. As you will be aware, the Department of the Taoiseach arrangement is in place for all former holders of that office and therefore a matter for that department."
Since stepping down as taoiseach, Ahern has been in receipt of €14,000 for mobile phone bills and airport VIP charges from his former department.
Between his resignation in 2008 and May of this year, the former taoiseach ran up a €8,331 mobile phone bill and a further €5,682 at airport lounges. Both are paid by the state.
However, allowances made available to all sitting TDs, including Ahern, also cover the cost of mobile phone bills and other telephony.
An explanation of the public representation allowance, which is worth €15,000 if unvouched, makes specific reference to its use for mobile phones.
According to the guide, it is used to cover "telephone calls, otherwise than from Leinster House, including line rental and mobile phone calls, relating to the performance of his/her duties as a member".
The allowance, under which Ahern has been claiming the maximum unvouched amount of €1,250 a month, also covers constituency office costs, stationery, insurance, cleaning, advertising, leafleting and other routine expenditure.
The former taoiseach is also claiming his full entitlement of €10,000 a year – claimed as €1,000 each month – in a "travel and accommodation allowance".
According to the Houses of the Oireachtas, it is paid to cover "the costs of travel to and from Leinster House, accommodation where applicable and, for deputies only, constituency travel".
However, Ahern has no travel costs as a full-time garda driver and car is provided to him at extensive cost to the taxpayer.
The former taoiseach, who lives just a few miles from Leinster House in Drumcondra, is also considered unlikely to require any expenses for accommodation when on Dáil business.
Bertie fiddles while