Politicians' expenses bills may be slashed

Massive expenses bills run up by TDs and Senators could be slashed in the fall-out over controversial independent allowance payments to Fianna Fáil TD Beverley Flynn, it emerged today.

Even though the Mayo politician gave up her non-party role eight months ago, Ms Flynn has continued to receive the €41,000 a year bonus insisting she is entitled to the tax-free sum under law.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said he will raise the lucrative bonus with her in the next two weeks while Finance Minister Brian Lenihan revealed he has already asked for a cut in payments to TDs and Senators.

“What I will do as Minister for Finance is reduce the amount of money available to them because I understand the public unease at the amount of expenditures that are being spent,” the minister said.

“It is an issue that should be addressed.”

According to official Oireachtas figures, the wage bill for TDs and Senators will be €22.75m. The same accounts show allowances and expenses, including travel costs, are budgeted to hit €14.6m this year.

It is understood the Finance Minister raised the need to cut costs with Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue during one of their regular meetings before Christmas.

Mr Lenihan declined to criticise Ms Flynn but described the controversy over the Mayo TDs Independent allowance claim as “issues”.

“Specifically in relation to Beverley Flynn, the Taoiseach has made it clear he will discuss the implication of her own issues in the coming days,” he told RTE Radio.

Ms Flynn was forced out of the Fianna Fáil party after Taoiseach Brian Cowen proposed her expulsion in 2004 following a failed libel action against RTE.

She was readmitted to the party in April last year and has continued to be paid the Independents’ allowance as she was not a party member when she was elected.

Ms Flynn also claimed Fianna Fáil continued to receive an allowance for her seat as a TD even though she received no support from the party after her expulsion.

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