COUNTY councillors have claimed more than €80,000 attending conferences across Ireland in the last year.
Figures obtained by the Limerick Leader show the 27 sitting county representatives claimed €83.812 attending events nationwide.
Eight members - Cllrs Francis Foley, Michael Collins, David Naughton Damien Riedy, Eddie Ryan, Kevin Sheahan, Michael Sheahan and Eddie Wade – claimed the maximum allowance to which councillors are entitled.
They are entitled to this to pay for subsistence, travel and the fee of the conference itself, with an overnight allowance of around €108.
They can claim between €39 and €59 for mileage depending on the type of vehicle they use.
The highest claimant in the county was Fianna Fail’s Newcastle West councillor Michael Collins.
He was in attendance at conferences looking at Internet Elections, Making Small Business Work, Budget 2014, and Local area election boundaries.
These conferences took place in Letterkenny and Dublin.
Elsewhere, Fine Gael councillor Jerome Scanlan claimed a total of €743 attending the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal.
He was joined at the high-profile event – addressed by Dr Alan Ahearne, Prof Diarmaid Ferriter and Josephine Fehilly – by Cllr Mary Jackman.
But Cllr Jackman said she will not lodge a claim for this, because she could not secure accommodation in Donegal.
She has also yet to claim for a number of other conferences she is listed as attending, insisting she only attends seminars she feels are relevant to issues surrounding her job.
“I don’t go for the sake of going. I would look at the agenda very carefully [before deciding to go]. Some conferences are excellent, and by and large, are relevant to local authorities.”
Fianna Fail’s Newcastle West councillor Francis Foley is recorded as attending a summer school in Carrick-on-Shannon, devoted to the work of Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope.
The biennial school saw a walk of the ‘Trollope trail’ around nearby Drusna, where the writer once settled, as well as workshops.
Cllr Foley said: “These are very important conferences, this is why we go to them. It is important to keep in touch with culture.”
Elsewhere, Independent Croom councillor Patrick C Fitzgerald attended the West Cork tourism conference in Rosscarberry in May, claiming a total of €507.31.
The Synge Summer School in Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, welcomed Cllr Leonard Enright on June 27.
The event included group discussions on Irish drama, and poetry readings with respected poet Rita Ann Higgins among others. Cllr Enright claimed some €905.24 in travel, subsistence, as well as the fee to the conference organisers. He was not available for comment as the Leader went to press.
Cllr Mike Donegan travelled to Tralee to attend a conference on Early Education and Childcare.
He said this was relevant to him as he is working with a Kilmallock early educational set-up which has opened over the last number of years. On conferences overall, he said: “I think they are important. They are part of our training, and they inform us on matters in relation to tourism for example. I find them beneficial.”
Retiring councillor David Naughton, Fine Gael, attended the Colmcille Winter School in Letterkenny, the Benedict Kiely Literary Weekend in Omagh, and the 25th Annual La Touche Legacy Seminar, in Co Wicklow, claiming more than €2,000 for these events alone. He was not available for comment.
A number of councillors did not attend any conferences in 2013.
One of them, Cllr David Moloney, Labour, said: “Conference money could maybe be put into a pot and used for discretionary spend for councillors to purchase street lighting or other things which can benefit the community.”
Note: A separate report on the claims made by city councillors appears in our City edition.