High Mileage Club 5: Fianna Fáil junior minister Thomas Byrne says 1,800-kilometre mileage claim is correct, won’t explain why diary doesn’t match up

Fianna Fáil junior minister Thomas Byrne has insisted one of his mileage claims is correct – despite his diary only accounting for a fraction of what he claimed.

Though the minister of state at the Department of Tourism told The Ditch his August 2020 mileage claim is “in accordance” with his ministerial work that month, he claimed for almost 1,800 kilometres while his diary suggests he drove just 300 kilometres. He declined to comment further on the trips he took that came to this total.

Byrne’s departmental colleague Catherine Martin recently repaid €1,140 driving expenses she said she claimed in “error” while his party colleague Niall Collins refuses to address two unusually high mileage claims.

Meath East Byrne for August 2020, while the Dáil was in recess, claimed to have driven 1,763 kilometres for ministerial work.

His official diary, released to The Ditch under freedom of information, supports around 300 kilometres.

His first two engagements, booked for 7 August and then 19 August, were for phone calls, the first with his French ministerial counterpart, the second an interview with BBC Radio 4.

On 20, 25 and 27 August, according to his diary, he had training in government buildings. He conducted two interviews on 26 August with Dublin radio stations and his social media reports no other official engagements.

When ministers make driving expenses claims they’re required to submit their total kilometres driven in a particular month and then subtract any that were for personal use.

For the two Augusts after Byrne’s high 2020 claim, he acknowledged that 3,000 kilometres, in 2021, and 2,500, in 2022, were driven for personal reasons.

In 2020 however he said just 200 kilometres were for personal use.

Byrne told The Ditch, “My mileage claim for August 2020 is fully in accordance with my official work done that month.”

He didn’t respond to a further request for a breakdown of the ministerial trips he took that came to a total of 1,763 kilometres.

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors