TDs and senators are facing combined unpaid Oireachtas bar and restaurants bills of almost €20,000 more than a year-and-a-half ago after a new system was introduced to cut down on politicians' debt.

Freedom of Information Act figures obtained by RTÉ News show the bills, which must begin to be paid in early 2020 under new rules, include 69 politicians with unpaid restaurant bills of €14,698.10 and 49 others with bar bills of €4,954.85.

In April 2018, a new system was introduced at Leinster House to address long-standing concerns over the taxpayer being left with unpaid Dáil bar and restaurant bills.

Under the new system, any politician using an official tab in either of the Dáil bars or the private members' restaurant had to agree that debt of more than two months old could be taken out of their salary or a nominated private debit/credit card.

The change has led to a reduction in the amount of money owed for long periods, with an average of 30 politicians facing deductions from salaries since the first cases in June 2018.

However, despite the new system, significant costs are still being accrued under politicians' names.

By the start of November this year, the latest figures available  show TDs and senators had yet to repay €19,652.95 in debt to the Oireachtas private members restaurant and Dáil bars.

The figure includes €14,698.10 in restaurant debt for 51 TDs and 18 senators, and €4,954.85 in Dáil bar debt for 32 TDs and 17 senators.

This compares to:

* 2018: €33,703.98 in combined debt, including €24,993.23 restaurant debt for 46 TDs and 30 senators, and €8,710.75 bar debt for 48 TDs and 25 senators

* 2017: €35,623.77, including €29,106.07 restaurant debt for 61 TDs and 32 senators, and €6,517.70c bar debt for 45 TDs and 19 senators

* 2016: €36,538.65, including €30,902.10 restaurant debt for 64 TDs and 31 senators, and €5,636.05 bar debt for 47 TDs and 19 senators

No TD or senator has been identified in the figures, in part because of a long-standing question over whether the costs were accrued by the individual politician themselves or by guests they brought into Leinster House.

However, the figures show that the top five Dáil bar and restaurant debts at the start of November included:

* Five highest Dáil bar debts by TD:






* Five highest Dáil bar debts by senator:






* Five highest Oireachtas restaurant debts by TD:






* Five highest Oireachtas restaurant debts by senator:






In a letter sent alongside the figures, the Oireachtas members' services unit said the information represents a "snapshot" in time and that under the new credit system rules unpaid bills will begin to be taken from a TD’s or senator's salary after two months.

The unit confirmed that as part of a retrospective book-keeping examination in late 2014, the Oireachtas agreed to write off more than €5,000 in unpaid debt dating as far back as the early 2000s.

While this was described in the letter as a "once-off", the decision has led to some concerns over whether the imminent general election may result in some of the existing Dáil bar and restaurant debt not being repaid if politicians involved are not re-elected.