The Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Dick Roche, claimed over €50,000 in “mileage costs” from his Department over two years – the highest total mileage claim of anyone at the Department over that period.
According to a database released under the Freedom of Information Act, Mr Roche ranks first for mileage claims for the entire department for both 2008 and 2009. In 2008 he claimed €28,466.97 in mileage costs, while in 2009 Mr Roche claimed €21,563.56 under the same heading – a total of €50,030.53.
In 2009 a total of €157,466.02 was claimed by Department of Foreign Affairs staff under the mileage cost heading, with Mr Roche’s claims accounting for over 13% of the cost of all mileage claims in that year. In 2008 Mr Roche claimed 11% of the €268,403.34 of all mileage costs at the Department. Mr Roche was appointed Minister of State at the Department after the 2002 general election and was reappointed in 2007.
Mr Roche’s senior at the Department, Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin did not make any claims for mileage costs. His total claims for 2009 were €2,662.63, mostly for “subsistence costs”. Mr Martin has the use of a Ministerial car. The next highest claimant of mileage expenses after Mr Roche in 2008 was Patrick J Kelly, who claimed €10,025.40.
Under all expense headings, other staff at the Department include Ambassador to Turkey Thomas Russell, who claimed €16,784.28 in 2009. Ambassador to Australia Mairtin O’Fainin claimed €16,584.45 in 2009, Ambassador to Egypt Richard O’Brien claimed €15,559.16, Francis Rickard claimed €15,406.94 and Second Secretary at the Irish embassy in Abu Dhabi Robert O’Driscoll claimed €14,478.93 in 2009.
The Department press office said as far as it was aware Mr Roche does not employ the services of a driver and does not have a ministerial car at his disposal. Mr Roche is based in Bray, Co Wicklow, 20km from Dublin city centre. However Mr Roche was heavily involved in campaigning for the Lisbon Treaty in both 2008 and 2009. In 2007 his mileage claims totalled under €13,000. Mr Roche’s involvement in the campaign could have had a significant effect on his claims. According to SIPO “The use of Ministerial cars, including drivers, by Ministers (not Ministers of State) during the election period, is not an election expense as the cars and drivers are provided as a security measure and Ministers are required to use them at all times.”
As a TD, Mr Roche was paid a salary of €98,164.32 in 2008, and did not claim any travel or subsistence expenses from the Oireachtas. Mr Roche’s expenses claims at the Department of Foreign Affairs have continued into 2010, with the most recent single claim for €1,050.59 made for mileage costs on February 19, 2010. A Junior Minister could expect to earn €147,284 a year in 2007, on top of their average TD salary of €122,000.
Expenses data for all staff at the Department of Foreign Affairs for 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 will be published here in the coming weeks.
In 2007 it emerged that many junior ministers were claiming large amounts of mileage:
THE current system of paying junior ministers’ mileage has been described as a “farce” after it emerged a TD in Dublin claimed 100 times more in petrol expenses than a TD in Galway.
Figures seen by the Irish Independent show that Noel Ahern, who represents Dublin North West, ran up mileage expenses of €19,710 last year and €20,390 to date this year.
This is 100 times more than the €190 which was claimed last year by Noel Treacy, who represents the people of Galway East.
But last night, Mr Ahern claimed the figures supplied by the department about Mr Treacy were “ridiculous” and “wrong”. He said he is usually at the lower end of claims when a full list is compiled adding: “I don’t think that (€19,710) is necessarily that much.”
Figures show the Department of the Environment — which is headed up by the Green’s John Gormley — has covered the most road miles.
The biggest claim last year was lodged by Cork’s Minister of State for Environment, Batt O’Keeffe — who ran up a travel bill of €62,638 and has already run up expenses of €32,240 so far this year.
Junior ministers were allowed to claim expenses following a Government decision in 1983 barred ministers of State from using a state car. Junior ministers do receive a civilian driver — but in a bid to cut costs, the Government allowed them to claim travel costs on up to 60,000 miles.
As long as ministers can prove that they used their car for official State business they are covered — and can claim travel allowance like any public servant on official business.