AN article in a national newspaper that claimed a Kildare TD brought council staff to Leinster House and bought them drinks in the Dáil bar has been described as nothing but a bit of political heat.
Fianna Fáil TDs Frank O’Rourke and Fiona O’Loughlin were criticised in an article by the Sunday Business Post after they split a €52 bill on a round of drinks for 22 council staff members. The staff were in Leinster House to take the 100th anniversary tour.
Deputy O’Rourke explained that for any group to enter Dáil Eireann they can only do so under a TD or senators’ name.
“They were told this when they tried to book the tour and they then contacted my office to see if I’d facilitate it,” said Deputy O’Rourke.
“A load of groups regularly come in, business groups, schools, mens sheds, the Care of the Aged, they all book under a different TD or senator’s name.
“An usher takes them on the tour and when it is finished they notify the person who’s name they booked under. This is insignificant, there’s nothing in it. It is done every single day of the week with different groups.”
He said that it was out of “common courtesy” and “decency” that they offered to pay for a cup of tea or a drink in the bar as the group waited for their bus.
“If I didn’t facilitate it someone else would have and why shouldn’t they be allowed to take the tour like everyone else? There was nothing in it. That’s the bit that people are missing or choosing not to take on board,” he added.
Deputy O’Rourke said he believed someone in the political sphere contacted the Sunday Business Post to “make a story”.
“They told lies to try and create a bit of political heat, to create a story out of nothing and get me in to trouble.”
Deputy O’Rourke said he was reluctant even to comment on the matter as it was so insignificant.
“I’m not interested in operating in the gutter,” he added.
Deputy Fiona O’Loughlin agreed. She questioned why council officials wouldn’t be allowed the opportunity to take the anniversary tour like any other group.
“Why shouldn’t they, the same as anyone else, have an opportunity to take the tour? If any group came up we’d offer to buy them a cup of tea,” she said.
The staff visited Leinster House on the same day they had visited the headquarters of Irish Tar for training, a company where Deputy O’Rourke has previously worked.
He explained that it is standard for local authorities to visit these companies as part of CPD (Continuing Professional Development) training.
This was confirmed by Kildare Co Council who explained that the council has recently attained CPD Accredited Employer status from Engineers Ireland (EI), requiring a minimum of 35 hours of CPD training a year for engineering and technical staff.
Independent councillor Brendan Young said he believed the buying of drinks to be “completely inappropriate” and questioned if the Fianna Fáil party has a privileged relationship with Kildare Co Council staff.
He questioned how Deputy O’Rourke knew there was a visit by Kildare Co Council staff to the company in which he had been a manager and if staff would now feel an obligation to give Fianna Fáil privileged access to information.
“I’ll be asking questions of the council about this,” he said.
In a statement the council said after the tour of Leinster House the usher escorted the group to the Dáil bar to await the arrival of the group’s bus to return to Naas.
“Kildare County Council staff purchased their own refreshments while awaiting the return transport. As is normal, a number of TDs and Oireachtas Members entered the bar area and had brief discussions with a number of Kildare County Council staff,” it read.