As the Minister of State will be aware, I and my Green Party colleagues have long been opposed to the dual mandate and voluntarily resigned from double-jobbing last year. We did not call for payment to be made at this or any other stage, ask for kudos or seek the high moral ground. The issue was one of principle for the Green Party, which does not make us better or worse than anyone else. However, we did not ask for money for doing so. We now find that others are being paid for being forced or incentivised to do something we did willingly.
The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Local Government, Deputy Cullen, directly and indirectly is paying out a combined total of €12,800 to those Members who resigned or will resign their council seats between, approximately, May and September this year. This is absurd and I call on the Minister to halt gratuity payments due to Oireachtas Members for relinquishing their council seats. The €12,800 payment is nothing less than a bribe which all but a few charitable Deputies, such as Deputy Grealish or dual mandate hardliners such as Deputy Ring, will lap up without complaint.
I would prefer if the payment were not made, particularly in light of recent revelations about overspending at election time and the lack of legislation to cover spending outside these times. Des Kelly who brought the recent, useful case before the courts is from my constituency. He must have spent three or four times what one would normally spend during an election outside the election campaign. This area needs to be tightened up.
The Minister appears insistent on paying money to Oireachtas Members for resigning the dual mandate. Will this money be paid to all Members who resigned council seats before the legislation was passed and not just those who step down between May and September this year? Rumours, particularly those based on conversations party members have had with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, suggest that it will not. If this is the case it is a scandal and skulduggery of the highest order because paying money early to those who did not resign on principle is shocking and unfair. It will give other parties an advantage in terms of funding both before and during the next general election. It is basically an unfair bribe and means that my constituency rivals and their fellow Oireachtas Members nationwide will be able to afford to plaster their faces around their constituencies without having to draw on their salaries and other resources they are meant to have to do their work while the rest of us will be under more pressure. It is one thing to do the job required of one, but when campaigning for re-election one has to let people know that one is doing one's job, and unless one spends money on this one will not get re-elected no matter how good one is.
The 2002 election overspend means that more and more money will be spent between elections. The €12,800 is not a small sum and exceeds what I spent on my general election campaign. We know that most Deputies and Senators will spend it on their election campaigns and publicity material, although I acknowledge Deputy Grealish put his hand on his heart and said he would give it to charity.