OPM Is By Far The Easiest To Spend
I usually take a contrary view whenever newspapers get all 'Daily Mail' over an issue like this. I try to see behind the posturing and finger-pointing, to the underlying story, then come up with some posturing and finger-pointing of my own.
When asked to comment on his expenses, Kieran O'Donnell said that as a first time TD he had incurred additional costs in setting up his full-time office in Limerick city. He added that as the party's deputy finance spokesperson, he was a member of two finance committees and had been travelling to Dublin frequently for meetings since the economic crisis took hold.
The amount claimed by O'Donnell was €128,977. Now, call me Judy, but that seems like a lot of money to 'set up an office' and travel to Dublin, however 'frequently.'
I'm self-employed so I have to pay my own expenses. Like a great many other musicians, we travel the length and breadth of Ireland from Letterkenny to Gorey four or five times a week. We hire venues, studios and rehearsal space. We spend inordinate amounts of time on the phone organising dates and players. We are involved in designing posters, printing flyers, creating websites, writing press releases and a thousand other tasks vital to a small business.
We have to purchase, repair and replace expensive equipment, not just our instruments but amplifiers, public address systems, lights, costumes (oh yes!), leads, microphones, strings, stands, and speakers. Then there's the outlay, maintenance and depreciation on the van. The tax, insurance, CRW, AA, etc.
And all that's for an actual real-life job, not one which consists of merely talking bollix, reading total bollix, and writing some more bollix while kissing babies (probably not on the bollix in fairness). It costs money to make money.
But in all this, in my busiest year ever, in my wildest dreams, I would never EVER expect to shell out €100,000 for expenses. Or €50,000. Or even €25,000.
I don't need to hear any justification for the expenses. I don't want a breakdown. I don't need to 'put things in context.' I simply want it made clear: the job of a TD (while admittedly unappealing) is nothing like a real business; they just have to show up places and occasionally photocopy stuff.
Let's imagine a sales rep (the nearest analogue to politician) who travels all over Ireland with brochures to impress the new clients, and some excuses to mollify the existing ones. Now imagine him visiting his boss at the end of year and saying:
Hi, I know I'm getting €40K base pay plus my 15% commission, but since I'm kind of running my own office here and travelling to Dublin frequently, I need to put in for €100,000 expenses. Ok? I'll just leave this here for you. K THX BAI.
His boss's reaction should be ours. It's bollix pure and simple. Bollix, bollix, bollix. That is the word of the day. Over and out.
- † Other People's Money. [back ↩]