Have a look at these two.
This is Richie Butler, and his colleague, Mary Harty.
Richie and Mary are elected to Limerick County Council and for the year 2011 they both claimed expenses of over €50,000. Richie and Mary are politicians who don’t do anything apart from searching for votes. They provide no public services and they have no offices or staff.
Now, as you’ll be aware, there is much talk of the Croke Park Agreement, which doesn’t relate to the likes of Richie and Mary, but which concerns public servants doing an actual job, as opposed to being politicians. And you’ll be aware that there is huge public resistance to paying public servants anything at all.
Fair enough. That’s a discussion for another day, but nevertheless, if you were expected to drive from here to there, you’d consider it reasonable to get your petrol money at least. And you’d expect something towards your tyres, and general wear and tear, or else you’d expect a company car. Isn’t that right?
Most council officials don’t exceed about 10,000 miles a year because it takes time to do a job, but Richie and Mary, who have no jobs, and are only councillors, last year each claimed €50,000 in travelling expenses.
What do you think of that? County councillors, who contribute nothing at all to the services provided to the public, claiming this sort of money, while working public servants are subjected to vilification?
I did a little breakdown, just to put it in perspective.
Councillors Butler and Harty both claimed over €50,000 travelling expenses on a single year. At an average rate of 60 cents per mile, this means that they each drove approximately 85,000 miles in the year as part of their duties.
Or to put it another way, over the 260 working days in the calendar, disregarding any holidays, they drove 326 miles each and every day.
Now, let’s say they took four weeks holidays in the year, and they’re fully entitled to it. We won’t begrudge them.
That means they had 240 working days to cover all those miles. Richie and Mary had to drive 354 miles each and every day.
How long does that take? Around Ireland, speeds average about 45mph when you take into account the state of the roads. That means that they were about 7 hours, 50 minutes on the road, every single day, without a pause.
This leaves them with 10 minutes to deal with all those vital constituency issues. Every day
Everybody needs a break. Nobody could be expected to spend nearly eight hours behind the wheel. Apart from anything else, you’d need to stop for petrol and a visit to the little boys’ room. Not to mention the hurried wolfing-down of a breakfast roll. Even the most dedicated public servant is entitled to that.
Oh God. They’re on the road for nearly nine hours every day. And if you add in Christmas, Easter and all the other statutory holidays, in order to achieve the necessary mileage they’d need to be on the road for something approaching ten hours every day behind the wheel, before they ever meet a single constituent or exchange a single word at one of their vital democratic functions.
But wait. This doesn’t allow for any time attending area meetings or Council meetings. The things, in other words, that they were elected to do. Let’s call that another ten hours a week.
They’re behind the wheel for eleven hours a day. Surely it’s illegal to be driving that long, and what about their families?
Now, how’s that for dedication? It’s an awful lot of driving, wouldn’t you agree?
Elsewhere: Limerick Leader