Friday 11 October 2019
Injury claim TDs Bailey and Farrell among six politicians ordered to repay Dáil expenses following audit
Two Fine Gael politicians who have been at the centre of controversy over personal injury claims have had to refund expenses payments after an audit found they were ineligible.
‘Swing-gate’ TD Maria Bailey and party colleague Alan Farrell were among a small number of politicians who had to make refunds.
Their party colleague, Senator Michelle Mulherin, also had to make a refund to Oireachtas authorities.
Mr Farrell and Ms Mulherin last night disputed the guidelines for expenses claims made under the Public Representation Allowance (PRA).
Six TDs and senators were found to have made ineligible claims totalling almost €10,000 in 2017 after the audit of 22 Oireachtas members by accountancy firm Mazars.
Mr Farrell returned €4,214.79, Ms Mulherin paid back €2,006.73 and Ms Bailey refunded €1,977.11. Independent Senator Lynn Ruane paid back €978.81, another Independent Seanad member, Colette Kelleher, gave back €245.85 and Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer refunded €227.16.
Both Ms Bailey and Mr Farrell have made headlines in recent months over personal injury claims.
During the summer, Ms Bailey dropped a legal action she took against the Dean Hotel in Dublin after she fell from a swing on a night out in 2015.
Ms Bailey had a bottle of beer in one hand and was “reaching” for a friend’s bottle of wine at the time.
She took a case against the hotel, claiming injuries. Ms Bailey received medical treatment and publicly claimed she sought €6,000 to €7,000 to cover her costs.
However, her case included a claim she had been unable to run “at all” for three months after the incident.
The Irish Independent revealed she actually ran a 10km race in less than 54 minutes just three weeks after falling.
She subsequently dropped the legal case.
Mr Farrell won a separate personal injury claim after a 2015 traffic collision and was awarded €2,500 by a court.
Judge Michael Coghlan said there was “little or no notation to back up a claim of significant whiplash” and he considered Mr Farrell’s injuries to be “very minor”.
Mr Farrell dropped a claim for material damage to his car after photos of the vehicle were shown in court.
The Mazars audit of the Oireachtas members’ PRA claims for 2017 found ineligible expenses totalling €9,650.45.
Reasons for claims being disallowed included the expenses not relating to the relevant period, adequate supporting documentation not being provided, and claims not falling within an allowable expense category.
A total of 16 Oireachtas members received clear audits.
Last night Mr Farrell said he was “disappointed” that what he considered to be “legitimate expenses” were disallowed because the audit guidelines did not allow for customer credit periods.
He said invoices for “legitimate services” acceptable under the PRA issued to him in the final months of 2016 were paid in full in early 2017.
“In one case, the work was completed in January 2017 and verified by a completion report from the company in question.
“In both instances, the auditor disallowed the expense for the purposes of the 2017 calendar year,” Mr Farrell said.
It is understood that expenses claimed by Ms Mulherin and Mr Buttimer were deemed ineligible because ads or room hire for senators’ clinics for members of the public aren’t allowed under the guidelines.
Ms Mulherin said: “I totally disagree with the findings of the auditors.” Her PRA expenditure was “100pc vouched” and she added: “Clearly, I have not gained personally from this.”
She disputed the legal basis for the PRA guidelines and said she had a senior counsel’s opinion to back up her position.
Ms Mulherin has complained to the Ceann Comhairle “pointing out the need to correct the PRA guidelines”.
She argued the guidelines affect the ability of senators to “do their duties”.
Mr Buttimer said: “They were vouched advertisements that were deemed to be partially inadmissible as I had included my clinic times. I fully repaid the sum.”
Ms Ruane said most of her expenses considered ineligible were claims that she submitted under incorrect headings. She didn’t dispute the auditor’s findings and “immediately paid it back”.