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Free pens for TD’s on €100k while back-to-school costs spiral

It’s that time of year when the cost of equipping a child for a return to school hits most parents straight between the eyes.

If you have more than one child, and particularly if you have a mix of primary and secondary school age children, then the wind has probably already been knocked out of you as you contemplate how on earth you are going to find the couple of grand it will all cost.

This is not an exaggeration, as a recent survey conducted by the Irish League of Credit Unions has made abundantly clear.

The ILCU survey shows the cost of sending a child to secondary school is now averaging €1,500 while the average cost of sending a child to primary school is now €1,186. An increase of €63 on last year.

All of this means that back to school costs remain a significant “financial burden” for 63% of parents.

In a context such as this, many hard-pressed parents will be more than a little miffed to discover that their local TDs will still be entitled to receive all the taxpayer funded pens and paper that they will ever reasonably need come this September, despite their being entitled to a salary of over one hundred grand since July when the public sector pay agreement increase kicked in.

To some the comparison may seem rather facetious, amounting to nothing more than an opportunity to take cheap shots at elected representatives.

I disagree. For while I have no difficulty in accepting the logic that TDs and Senators should be allocated some funds to assist with the setting up of constituency offices and the like, I have huge problems with just how wide the net of supports has been thrown.

As it stands TD’s and indeed Senators, under Article 15.15 have a constitutionally protected ‘right’ to such financial support:

“The Oireachtas may make provision by law for the payment of allowances to the members of each House thereof in respect of their duties as public representatives and for the grant to them of free travelling and such other facilities (if any) in connection with those duties as the Oireachtas may determine.”

Over the course of the years this has come to include everything from printer ink cartridges, a monthly allocation of hundreds of pre-paid envelopes, the provision of new mobile phones, shredders, laptops, the full payment of staff wages and salaries, ‘entertainment’ and research costs, and even the right to retain their taxpayer funded iPads once they reimburse the Oireachtas with the depreciated value of the device as at the date of cessation of the Dáil.

This is to say nothing about the entitlement to travel and accommodation expenses about which so much has already been written.

But despite all of these expenses being covered, TDs still do not have to buy so much as a pen, pencil or sticky-note pad for their offices.

And it is precisely because it is so small an expense that it irks me so much.

All that your TD has to do is walk to the Stationary Stores in Leinster House and ask for however many black, blue or red pens he or she needs, and they will get them. The same applies for other minor expenses such as cello-tape, paper clips, paper folders, plastic document folders and highlighter pens.

Help with renting a constituency office I can understand.

Handing over taxpayers’ cash to cover the cost of pencils and pens for extremely high paid politicians I cannot.

I suspect I am not the only one.


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