Small Business Minister John Perry managed to claim almost €30,000 in mileage expenses in less than 11 months.
The Fine Gael TD even managed to claim for 4,417kms in a month in which only two official appointments are listed in his diary. The Minister had an engagement in Wexford and one in Tuam, which is just a short drive from his home in Ballymote, Co Sligo.
Asked how the mileage was run up in a period in which the Dail and many government offices were closed, his Department said he had taken no holidays that month. They also said much of the mileage had been run up driving between his three constituency offices in Co Sligo.
In July of last year, the Minister made a claim for 8,722kms, which works out at 281kms per day. Mr Perry’s home in Ballymote is 192kms from the Dail, with a driving time of two and a half hours. To put it in perspective, that claim was the equivalent of a round trip to Wexford every single day, including weekends.
In the month of September, the Minister made a claim for 7,588kms despite the fact that at least nine days of the month were spent abroad (in Australia, the UK & Belgium). For the remaining days, his claim works out an average of 344kms per day, the same as a round trip to Belfast every single day, including weekends and the Bank Holiday. This level of mileage would require the Minister to have spent around four hours of each day in his car.
At the most fundamental level, it is very difficult to see how a tax-free sum of €29,782.35 can possibly be required to keep a car on the road for less than a year.
The Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation issued a lengthy statement on the matter to the Irish Mail on Sunday at the weekend:
‘While the Dail was not in session during the whole month of August, Minister Perry continued to carry out his duties and work commitments as an elected representative for his constituency of Sligo/North Leitrim and as Minister for Small Business.
‘Due to work commitments, and to enable the Minister to fulfil his constituency obligations, Minister Perry did not take any holidays during the month of August.
‘In his role as a public representative for the constituency of Sligo / North Leitrim the Minister has three working constituency offices based in Ballymote, Tubbercurry and Sligo. The Minister operates clinics for his constituents in these offices and travels between them very frequently. In his role as Minister for Small Business he has also met with members of the business community from the region at his offices in the Constituency.
‘During the months of July, August and September – just like in every other month since being appointed Minister of State – Minister Perry has covered long distances within his constituency, between his constituency and Dublin, and all around the country in order to balance his duties as Minister of State with representing and meeting his constituents.
‘Details of the Minister’s constituency engagements and his engagements as a member of a political party were not released as part of the Freedom of Information request as these records are exempted from release.
‘It would not be unusual for Minister Perry to drive to and from Dublin, as well as to undertake other trips in the same day.
‘Mileage paid to Ministers of State is strictly based on mileage driven, and odometer readings are provided to the Department at the beginning and end of every month.’
Here are the documents: