Perks such as haircuts, new suits and expensive raincoats are among more than €5m worth of allowances given to RTÉ staff every year. The clothes allowances are available to staff, even if they never appear on television.
In 2008, expenses and allowances were paid to almost 1,300 staff in RTÉ, who shared €6.5m in a wide variety of payments on top of their salaries. This is an average of €5,200 per employee. Although management at the national broadcaster refused to specify how the money is claimed, sources at the station told the Sunday Tribune that numerous avenues were open to employees.
These include clothing allowances, even for staff who work in radio, and wet weather vouchers for the Great Outdoors shop. Other non-cash benefits available include the use of hairdressers from Dublin's exclusive Brown Sugar salon.
"In the news room there is a clothing allowance and every February staff get it," said one employee. "Because there is so much fluidity, one year you could be working in TV in February and then you could be moved to radio in September but they would still get a clothing allowance. You don't have to apply for it. It's just put into your wage packet.
"There is no obligation to buy clothes out of it. You don't have to provide receipts. At the beginning of the month some lads use it to pay off their credit cards."
A spokesman for RTÉ said that the €1,000 taxed allowance is paid to journalists who are likely to appear on screen. Vouchers are also given to reporters for the Great Outdoors shop as a "protective clothing" allowance and are circulated every two years.
Correspondents receive around €1,200 for being on call while the usual travel and accommodation expenses are also covered. Reporters are provided with a basic make-up kit, which is replaced every year. Hairdressing expenses can be reclaimed.
Senior newscasters such as Bryan Dobson and Sharon Ní Bheoláin (left) receive annual clothing allowances of between €1,250 and €2,100. These clothes are purchased by the wardrobe department and remain the property of the station."We contract hairdressers from Brown Sugar to style presenters' hair from time to time," a spokesman confirmed.
A statement from RTE released under the Freedom of Information Act confirmed that "€6,578,054 was paid in 2008 in respect of allowances to 1,265 staff, an average payment of €5,200 per person." It said that such payments came under a wide variety of headings including "additional responsibilities, qualifications, additional hours, long service allowances and other variable allowances".