There is huge outcry in the UK at the moment over the Telegraph's expose of what MPs have been using their expenses to pay for. My favourite one so far is the £2,000 claim for clearing a moat.
Irish TDs are better paid than their British counterparts and don't have the same entitlement to claim for second-home expenses. TDs still run up huge expense bills though and some claim over €90,000 a year. But because TDs' expense claims are entirely unvouched we'll never know if they have been using public money to clear their moats or buy dog food.
The expenses of Irish MEPs is also under the spotlight with the European elections on the horizon. Unfortunately MEPs' expense claims are nearly as unaccountable as those from TDs. MEPs are entitled to €17,539.98 per month to pay their staff. As we previously discovered at least six Irish MEPs use part of this money to employ a family member. The Ireland East three, Mairead McGuinness, Liam Aylward and Avril Doyle did not return calls on the topic.
By-the-by Kathy Sinnott, who currently employs one family member, is facing legal action from one of her former constituency workers over the way she allegedly treated a non-family member of staff.
The MEPs I contacted for that story were almost universally annoyed and agitated at being asked about their expenses. Colm Burke, who doesn't employ a family member, berated me for at least 10 minutes for not covering the work he does in Brussells - like travelling to Gaza.
MEPs need to be open about what they are claiming. They get a raft of other expenses such as a monthly €4,202.18 "general expenditure allowance" that is also unvouched. As it stands we are not entitled to find out from the European Parliament how much of this expense is claimed by each MEP.
On Monday Jim Higgins was asked about his expenses by Vincent Browne on TV3 and said a breakdown of his claims was on his website. They weren't.
Since then he has put some details up. This is more than most MEPs have done but still offers us no way of independently verifying if the large sum of money being paid to him is being spent as is it should be. Hardly satisfactory considering what has been revealed about the politicians in Britain over the last week.
We'll hear more on MEPs' expenses over the next few days.