The news that Mary McAleese has returned more than €500,000 in unused personal allowances is something rarely (if ever) heard of in Ireland.
What bothers me about the story is
There were no conditions imposed for the use of these funds and no obligation on Mrs McAleese to return any unused sums during or at the end of her 14 years in the post.
I don’t understand why there is no obligation on McAleese or any other person in public office to return unused public money.
I don’t understand why this money is reported as being “gifted” to the State.
It was an allowance paid monthly in to the Áras househould account and “drawn down as required”.
The Presidential Allowance is provided to the head of state to cover certain costs associated with the office including all official hospitality at the residence, Áras an Uachtaráin.
This includes dinners, lunches, receptions, garden parties and visits by other heads of state, such as Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and US president Barack Obama.
Why does an allowance to run the Áras revert to a President when they leave office?
It’s deeply depressing to me that we live in a country where McAleese returning a chunk of money is the exception rather than the rule.