Renua boss paid €130,000 from State funds since taking helm

Renua Ireland leader John Leahy receives €65,000 each year from taxpayer funds.

State funding for his party came to €477,000 over 2016 and 2017 despite Mr Leahy – an Offaly county councillor – being Renua’s only elected representative.

Mr Leahy began getting an annual salary of €65,000 in October 2016 in addition to his pay as a councillor of around €16,000 a year. Last night he defended his remuneration, saying he works full-time as Renua leader in addition to his local authority duties, and said he takes “very few expenses”.

He said he took a “huge gamble” in giving up his previous job with Leinster GAA to devote all his time to politics because if he’s not elected he’ll “effectively have no job”.

He also insisted Renua is entitled to the State funding, as it received more than 2pc of the vote in the last general election.

Founded by former Fine Gael minister Lucinda Creighton, Renua failed to return any TDs to the Dáil in 2016 and she later left the party. It did secure 2.66pc of the national vote and qualified for Exchequer funding of €258,596 per annum as a result.

Details of how the party spent the cash are contained in its 2017 accounts published by the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo).

Staff costs accounted for €96,375 while administration costs came to €128,302.

Mr Leahy said the party holds public meetings around the country and administration costs arise from that.

Renua was almost entirely reliant on State funding last year. This cannot be used for election purposes. Mr Leahy said Renua hopes to raise €15,000 to €20,000 to contest the next general election. He said membership has grown from 300 to 750 and the party has selected 20 candidates.

Meanwhile, Mr Leahy said he has tried to contact controversial former presidential candidate Peter Casey to gauge his interest in joining Renua, but he has yet to hear back from him.

Mr Leahy said he has “no difficulty” with Mr Casey’s views on the Travelling community and the social welfare system. Separately, accounts for the Independents4Change – which includes TDs Clare Daly, Mick Wallace and Joan Collins – show that they paid their parliamentary leader €5,000 from a taxpayer-funded allowance in 2017.

Ms Daly is listed as the leader in Sipo returns for that year. She didn’t respond last night to questions on the payment. Records indicate that Mr Wallace was paid €3,000 in the same category in 2016.

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