LIMERICK city councillors have claimed almost €66,000 attending conferences so far this year.
Figures obtained by the Limerick Leader show the city’s 17 representatives attended 63 conferences over 285 days.
One member, Cllr Kevin Kiely, claimed the maximum €4,700 allowance 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 just over €108. They can claim between €39 and €59 for mileage, depending on the vehicle they use.
Seven councillors attended the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal in late July, claiming a total of €6,511.39 between them.
The event - which saw speeches from Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and other cabinet ministers - was attended by Cllrs Joe Leddin, Diarmuid Scully, Mayor Gerry McLoughlin, Tom Shortt, Ger Fahy, Denis McCarthy and Cormac Hurley.
The Merriman Summer School in Lisdoonvarna, which looked at rural Ireland’s place in a globalised world, welcomed six councillors.
Cllrs Pat Kennedy joined Joe Leddin, Kathleen Leddin, Kieran O’Hanlon, Orla McLoughlin, Gerry McLoughlin and Tom Shortt at the four day event. They amassed expenses of €3,455 in total.
Cllr Kiely - who claimed €4,713 - stayed overnight at three conferences locally. His records show attendance at events in Nenagh, Tralee and the Limerick Junction, all of which included overnight stays.
“If you go to these conferences, there would normally be a banquet. If you take a glass of wine with it, you cannot drive home, you have no option but to stay overnight,” he said.
The former mayor said he does not feel in 2014 there will be many people interested in entering local politics, due to the cuts, saying: “For the time and effort, and the respon-sibility that comes with the role, it does not pay well enough.”
Two Labour councillors – Joe Leddin and current mayor Gerry McLoughlin – ventured to Clogher, Co Tyrone, for a three-day conference celebrating the work of novelist William Carleton, while Cllr Orla McLoughlin, also of Labour, attended to the John Hewitt summer school in Co Armagh, which promised “music, drama, discussions and entertainment”.
Esperanza Enter-prises, a company which a Fianna Fail councillor in Galway, Seamus Walsh, is a director, organised a number of seminars this year which local councillors attended. Subjects included disability access, personal injuries, criminal law, and protecting the public from dishonest trading.
Southside coun-cillor Maria Byrne used part of her allowance to take on a diploma in local government studies in Ennis. She claimed €195 across three modules, with the course costing €840.
Councillors also attended conferences focusing on tourism, agri-food, and integration. Under reforms proposed by Minister Phil Hogan, the conferences members can attend will be restricted.
Cllr Diarmuid Scully – who claimed €4,301 including €634 on a trade mission to China – believes this could see various summer schools close. He admitted were he not a councillor, he would not be able to attend summer schools.
The only member who did not attend any conferences was northside councillor Maurice Quinlivan, who was not available for comment.
See the Limerick Leader broadsheet for a full list of the expenses claimed by the councillors.