Ireland has 13 MEPs. With the European elections coming up this summer and recent public outcry over the Galvin report on abuses of MEPs' secretarial allowances we decided to see how many of the Irish MEPs employ family members.
Out of the ten MEPs I contacted six said they employed family members. The next five year term of the parliament will be the last in which MEPs will be allowed to employ family. So from the following term, from 2014 onwards, family can't be hired. Those MEPs like Sean O Neachtain, who employs two family members, will have to find alternative staff if they make it past the 2014 elections.
Galvin found that some MEPs were abusing the system by paying their secretarial allowances, now worth 210,480 euro annually, in to family businesses, a creche and companies whose accounts show no activity. This system will be changed following this summer's elections and the secretarial allowances will be paid directly by the European parliament.
In the mean time there is a lack of transparency and most Irish MEPs aren't keen to say what company they pay their allowances through.
Eoin Ryan said he uses a firm of solicitors while some of the Fine Gael MEPs and Marian Harkin use Falcon Financial, to handle payroll administration. Proinsias De Rossa has taken a lead on other Irish MEPs in the transparency stakes by laying out some of the details of his expenses on his website.