Clare’s 28 county councillors were paid €813,115 in salaries and, expenses in 2017. This compares with €797,121 last year and €756,390 in 2015. The statistical information was published by Clare County Council.
Last year councillors across Ireland were awarded a €1,000 pay rise from July 1st and an increase of around €2,500 in vouched expenses. Previously €2,667 could be claimed for unvouched expenses but now there is the option of claiming up to a maximum of €5,000 but in vouched expenses.
The county’s highest-earning councillor in 2017 was Tom McNamara whose total payments of €42,561 included an additional €10,000 for his role as Mayor of Clare. Deputy Mayor Paul Murphy received €35,698. Cooraclare native Bill Chambers is once again the second highest earning councillor with a total of €38,698, an increase of €464 on his 2016 payment of €38,234.
Councillors Joe Cooney, Richard Nagle and Ann Norton have been among the top six earners over the last couple of years while at the other end of the scale, Ennis councillor Johnny Flynn is consistently the lowest paid on €16,565 as he honours a commitment not to claim any additional expenses or conference allowances.
Councillors are also entitled to claim for training allowances. Even after years in office some of the council’s most experienced members continue to claim significant sums for training. Included in this cohort are two independents, former Dáil deputy James Breen who claimed €3,170 for eight training seminars and West Clare councillor Christy Curtin who attended eleven training sessions at venues across the country for which he claimed €3,069. In contrast, four councillors did not claim any training allowances at all over the last two years.
A number of councillors also received payments for attendance at meetings to which they have been elected, appointed or nominated by Clare County Council. Among the highest earners in this group was Fine Gael’s Bill Slattery who received €5,199 for attending monthly meetings of the Southern Regional Assembly in Waterford and other amounts, including for a study trip to Brussels.
Another telling statistic published by the council was the number of meetings attended by individual members. Independent Shannon councillor Gerry Flynn has the best record having attended 57 meetings while the Fianna Fáil trio of Cathal Crowe (25), Alan O’Callaghan (27) and PJ Kelly (28) attended the fewest meetings.
In mitigation, all councillors are expected to attend statutory meetings and the Strategic Policy Committee they are assigned to, however, some have additional responsibilities such as the Corporate Policy Group, Joint Policy Committee, Local Community Development Group etc.
In order to claim their full allowance for the year, councillors are required to attend 80% of all statutory meetings. While most councillors are very assiduous with regard to their duties, attendance at meetings is not necessarily an indicator of diligence. No account is taken of the actual time spent at a statutory meeting. Indeed while the majority of councillors regularly contribute to meetings, there are a some who have very little to say on behalf of their constituents.