Varadkar: Take unpaid Dáil bar bills from TDs’ pay

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has urged Oireachtas officials to deduct thousands of euro in unpaid Dáil bar debt from TDs and senators’ salaries or pensions, insisting nobody is allowed to blatantly ignore their bills.

Mr Varadkar made the comment as an opposition TD warned there is a “smell of booze” around Leinster House and that TDs are regularly “slurring words or not being able to put sentences together” during late night Dáil votes.

An Oireachtas annual report released earlier this week said officials have been forced to write off €5,405 in unpaid Dáil bar tab bills dating back to the early 2000s due to the fact there is “no realistic prospect of recovery of the sums due”.

While the officials are now examining new credit policy restrictions to limit the amounts owed in future, these changes will not be in place until the end of the year at the earliest.

Oireachtas sources have said that while the vast majority of the money owed is likely to be from TDs and senators, other unpaid bills are also linked to department officials and other groups.

In a small number of cases, there are also disputes as to whether the money has been paid or not due to paperwork issues.

However, asked about the stand-off which is resulting in taxpayers being forced to pick up the tab, Mr Varadkar said that, regardless of the individual situations, officials should consider taking Dáil bar debt from non-payers’ salaries or pensions — insisting “everyone should pay their bills”.

“There’s a separation between Oireachtas and Government and I don’t want to be accused of interfering,” said Mr Varadkar.

“But it’s absolutely my view members and former members should pay their bills and I’d encourage the Oireachtas commission to look at a mechanism of deducting money from people’s salaries or pensions.

“I’d imagine it is possible to deduct it from salaries. It probably isn’t possible to deduct it from pensions for reasons you’ll understand, but I’d encourage the Oireachtas commission to examine that.

“Everyone should pay their bills, particularly politicians.”

The Taoiseach’s comment came as Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith told the Irish Examiner that Leinster House is suffering from a chronic drinking culture which must be tackled by the cross-party committee on procedures soon.

“They [TDs] drink,” she said. “They are held back at night. Drinking goes on a lot. There’s a late-night debate or vote and they are frequently around the bar as the bells go off.

“I’ve been surprised at times by the bad smell of booze. Certainly a lot of drink goes on, it is noticeable. There’s a noticeable slurring of words or not being able to put sentences together [during late-night votes].

“I can honestly say recently they have a more slurred way of speaking and a tired way. A slurriness and slowness. I don’t think it is acceptable in the Dáil.”

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