7 September 2012 No Comments by The Northern Standard

By Michael McDonnell

The substantial sums of money being paid to members of county councils and city councils were in the spotlight again this week as the Irish Independent published the results of its survey into the overall amounts picked up by each of the 883 public representatives on local authorities around the country.
In the week when Health Minister James Reilly found himself in hot water and had to perform an embarrassing u-turn over a proposed €10 million cut to funding for personal assistants for people with disabilities, the public’s attention has again been drawn to the money paid to county councillors — which came to €28 million last year.
While it is no secret that significant sums are now being paid to local politicians for positions that were at one time voluntary — and regarded as a privileged opportunity to serve the community pro bono — some of the startling revelations highlighted in the survey will raise the eyebrows of even the most cynical observers.
These included the large amounts spent on foreign travel and even on attending conferences in various parts of this country — with the tab for travel inside the State alone coming to €2.3 million in 2011.
The national newspaper’s investigation revealed how in one instance, five councillors from Donegal travelled to the opposite end of the country, Bunclody in Co Wexford, for a conference on local authority budgets, while on the same weekend in November of last year a similar conference on local authority budgets was held in Letterkenny, Co Donegal — and attended by a councillor from Wexford!
The pay for what was once considered a part-time role consists of a salary of €16,724 at county council level, with extra top ups for mayors, deputy mayors and the chairpersons of “special policy committees”, all of which are subject to tax.
The councillors also get allowances for attending meetings, a €600 mobile phone allowance and a so-called “conference budget” ranging between €1,000 and €4,700. These payments are all tax free.
The overall payments for county councillors in Monaghan, as given by the Independent (and including expenses for all the above as well as for participation, where relevant, on regional authorities and assemblies, third level institutions, VEC and HSE committees and other bodies) averaged out at €32,257 for each of the 20 representatives.
Topping the list was Castleblayney-area member Jackie Crowe (Sinn Féin), who reportedly received €45,911, with his Carrickmacross-area colleague Matt Carthy in second place at €45,593. Next up was Fianna Fáil’s Seamus Coyle (€44,854), followed by David Maxwell (Fine Gael, €42,337), with Robbie Gallagher of Fianna Fáil completing the five-strong list of Monaghan county councillors earning in excess of €40,000.
The Independent states that these figures also include payments for membership of town councils, which would apply to all the above representatives barring Cllr Coyle, whose payment would have been boosted from holding the position of County Mayor last year.
The payments to the remaining Monaghan county councillors were as follows:
PJ O’Hanlon* (FF, €34,085), Padraig McNally* (FF, €33,699), Aidan Murray (FG, €33,662), Owen Bannigan (FG, €33,369), Noel Keelan* (SF, €31,805), Gary Carville* (FG, €31,735), Pat Treanor* (SF, €31,087), Brian McKenna (SF €29,825), Heather Humphreys (FG, €29,550), Hugh McElvaney (FG, €27,057), Sean Conlon* (SF, €26,809), John O’Brien (FF, €26,758), Paudge Connolly (Ind, €25,641), Seamus Treanor* (Ind, €23,174), Sheila McKenna (SF, €21,496), Ciara McPhillips (FG, €17,988).
(The * symbol denotes councillors who are also serving on their local town councils.)
(Heather Humphreys of Fine Gael resigned her place on the Co Council after being elected a TD last year, and Ciara McPhillips was co-opted to the council in her place. Sheila McKenna of Sinn Féin sadly passed away in June of this year.)
Payments to county council representatives in neighbouring Co Cavan were slightly lower, averaging at €27,981, with the highest amount to any one representative coming to €37,833. This would reflect …

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