LIMERICK County councillors have defended their earnings for the past year, which have totalled over €852,000.
Figures published in a national newspaper have shown that county councillors have claimed an average of €28,409 each.
This comprises their annual salary of €17,000, fees for being chairman of special policy committees, and expenses for travelling to and from County Hall in Dooradoyle.
There is an additional allowance associated with being the Cathaoirleach of the County Council, a year-long role.
The figures, taken from the last calendar year, show the two highest claimants in the county were former Cathaoirligh, Cllr Richard Butler with €50,945 and Cllr Mary Harty with €50,308.
Fine Gael’s councillor Butler was unavailable for comment.
But Cllr Mary Harty defended her expense claim, saying that her job meant she was working seven days a week.
“I would have had appointments almost every single day. I would have accumulated travel expenses, because there is a lot of extra work involved in the job of Cathaoirleach,” she told the Limerick Leader.
Rather than the current structure, where the pay of councillors is separate to the €4,700 allowance they claim for conference travel and expenses, Cllr Harty wants to see a flat salary introduced for councillors.
“I’d like to see the salary increased, and all the claims put into one pot. Some of the expenses are obviously based on distance travelled to County Hall. But I’d like to see all the expenses built into one stand-alone payment,” she said.
The sitting Cathaoirleach, Cllr Jerome Scanlan claimed a total of €34,311 last year.
He feels he is deserving of the payment, saying: “I have worked very hard for what is due to me. I am a full time public representative, and I certainly work very hard in my job.”
For a full report and reaction, see this weekend’s Limerick Leader, print edition