THE former taoiseach Bertie Ahern is the least active member of the Dáil, a record of parliamentary questions and debates shows.
Ahern, who has managed to find time to pop up inside a kitchen cabinet on a TV ad, has not, however, managed to find the time to ask a single parliamentary question in the past year.
The ex-taoiseach, who has cultivated extensive business interests since his resignation, has not spoken in the Dáil for over a year either.
The last time that Ahern's voice was heard in the chamber was on the death of former TD Tony Gregory back in January 2009 when he expressed his sympathies.
Prior to that, the former taoiseach's most recent contribution to the Dáil was the resignation speech that paved the way for Brian Cowen to take over his seat.
Ahern has not tabled a single question to any government Department relating to constituency business or other matters of national importance.
Despite his incredible lack of activity when it comes to parliamentary business, Ahern has continued to claim his full entitlement to TD expenses.
On top of his six-figure salary, Ahern is being paid €2,250 per month in unvouched expenses to cover the day-to-day costs of being a silent public representative.
The former taoiseach is also entitled to a garda driver and a car for life, an arrangement that is believed to cost up to €200,000 each year.
Ahern's other entitlements include the use of a renovated office in the Leinster House complex and payment of his mobile phone bills by the Department of the Taoiseach.
Ahern has agreed to forgo his ministerial pension of €83,000-a-year while he continues to serve in the Dáil. The former taoiseach also has extensive business interests outside of politics, not least of which is a highly-paid sports column with the News of the World, the subject of the controversial advertisement.
Ahern is also a director of Parker Green International, an international firm that specialises in the development of shopping centres.
The Dublin TD is the chairman of a forestry body, which is part-financed by a Swiss firm that specialises in offshore banking.
Details of how much he is paid in these two roles are not publicly available but one type of earning for Ahern is known – the $50,000 he charges for a speaking engagement. Defenders of Ahern said it was practice that former taoisigh would not make contributions to the Dáil and would step away from public life quietly.
One party colleague said: "This would be standard practice for a former officeholder like him and is not a fair assessment."
However, some TDs said having political representatives who contribute absolutely nothing was a luxury we could no longer afford.
Socialist MEP Joe Higgins said: "If you stay on as a TD, you are supposed to represent your constituency and make some sort of contribution to politics.
"If you do not want to make any further contribution – and if he is not willing to justify his actions properly – there does not seem to be much reason to hang around in politics.
"Of course, you also have to ask what Bertie Ahern would have to say. His policies have landed the country in the mess that it is now in so it is probably no surprise that he is staying quiet."
A statement on behalf of the former taoiseach said: "Bertie Ahern attends the Dáil most days and actively engages with ministers, ministers of state, government departments and state agencies in all fields on behalf of his constituents.
"He complies with the tradition of former taoisigh Cosgrave, Fitzgerald, Haughey, Reynolds and Bruton still in the house of not engaging in Dáil debates.
"Bertie Ahern also spends time working on behalf of Co-operation Ireland and the World Economic Forum Agenda Council on Conflict Resolution."
If the former taoiseach is the least active member of the Dáil, others are not far behind him when it comes to parliamentary business.
He is one of 16 TDs that have asked fewer than 20 parliamentary questions and spoken less than 20 times in the last year, according to details from the political website kildarestreet.com
The figures do not take account of committee business or constituency matters, which many politicians claim occupy most of their time.
Next on the list after Ahern was the former Fianna Fáil minister Michael Woods, whose sole contribution in Dáil Éireann during the last 12 months was a remark in a debate on social welfare cuts.
He is followed in third place by Fianna Fáil TD Tom McEllistrim who spoke during two debates, one concerning reform of the Seanad.
Next up was the Independent TD Michael Lowry who submitted a parliamentary question regarding the cost of tribunals and made statements twice during debates on the same topic.
Following him in fifth place was the Kerry TD Jackie Healy-Rae who has asked four Dáil questions and spoken on two occasions.
In July of this year, Healy-Rae is listed as having said: "What about Puck Fair?" in a bizarre exchange regarding politicians attending the official opening of events.
His previous contribution to the Dáil came in December 2009 when he told Eamon Gilmore and "Lady [Roisin] Shortall" that they would be "damn glad" to have his support in the event of an unstable coalition government.