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WHO'S THE DAIL CREDIT MUNCHER? ELECTION COUNTDOWN 1 DAY TO GO Parties bid for any voters still floating after crunch.

Byline: MICHELLE O'KEEFFE

A GREEDY politician sparked outrage yesterday by racking up a bill of more than EUR5,600 in the Dail restaurant.

And 12 other members of the Oireachtas each owe between EUR1,000 and EUR3,000 after downing drink and food on their own personal tabs in the facility.

Overall 157 of the Oireachtas's 226 TDs and senators owe EUR74,941 for meals and beverages, figures revealed.

And one member owes the Dail bar EUR1,422.10.

The Oireachtas allows politicians to claim food and drink on credit and pay later. Socialist Party candidate for Dublin Joe Higgins said: "An outstanding bill of nearly EUR6,000 is extreme.

"It is normal if politicians are using the restaurant regularly that they will have a bill but it should be paid off every month.

"If this amount was run up within a month then that is very worrying.

"TDs and senators should ensure they pay their bill to the restaurant regularly and should definitely not let it built up to the level of over EUR5,000."

One member of the Oireachtas owed the restaurant EUR5,612.80 at the end of last year after quaffing booze and munching food without having to hand over cash straight away.

Another member owed EUR3,070.41, a third owed EUR3,049.75, a fourth owed EUR2,511.70 and a fifth owed EUR2,351.70.

In total there are 13 TDs or senators who owe the Dail restaurant more than EUR1,000.

Of the 157 Oireachtas TDs and senators with outstanding bills the individual amounts owed range from EUR5,612.80 to just 22c.

On average these members owe EUR477 each.

As well as the EUR1,422 boozer, another member owes EUR314.10 to the politicians' watering hole.

The other highest bills outstanding for drinks guzzled are EUR283.65, EUR267.98 and EUR262.45.

Overall, 37 of the 226 members owe a total of EUR4,419, with the average debt working out at EUR127.56.

Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour all claimed they were unable to name who owed the Dail bar and restaurant money.

A Labour spokesman said: "We would have no record of what individual's catering arrangements would be." And a Fine Gael spokeswoman said: "We don't have the names of politicians who owe money to the Dail restaurant."

An Oireachtas spokesman said: "The figures quoted in the story provide a snapshot of what is owed to the bar and restaurant at a given time and is not an indication of duration of those bills.

"These bills are regularly paid off, with each dealt with on a case by case basis.

"There is no suggestion that members are abusing the facilities of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

"It should also be noted that the figures referred in the story were for the end of the year, which includes the Christmas period, traditionally a busy time for the bar and restaurant."

Only 69 TDs and senators owe the restaurant nothing.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 4, 2009
Words:499
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