A Leinster House briefing paper flagged the risk that politicians could ‘hoard’ antigen tests if they were made freely available to TDs and senators.

He also warned that members of the Oireachtas were among the most vulnerable to Covid infection due to their “high number of interactions” with other people and challenges with social distancing.

A working paper said antigen testing could be made available to TDs and senators free of charge, but that could lead to “overuse and, more importantly, unnecessary use of testing.”

The document also warned of the risks of making the tests – which were to cost €2.60 (excluding VAT) each – available free of charge.

“Although unlikely, it is also possible that the provision of test kits on demand could lead to a ‘stockpiling’ of members of the parliamentary community taking advantage of the availability of free kits,” he said.

The document clarified that the discussion had included the possibility of providing the tests free of charge to politicians.

“The service can currently obtain test kits – the best quote obtained so far is €2.60 + VAT per kit. It is proposed that this cost be borne by the commission,” he said. declared.

The discussion of providing free tests to TDs and senators sparked controversy when it emerged late last year, with the Oireachtas later issuing a clarification.

They said politicians would have to pay their way and testing would only be available free of charge to Oireachtas staff who had to be on site.

Internal FOI records released also reveal how the Oireachtas received legal advice that they would not be able to introduce any type of mandatory testing program.

The briefing paper also said they were ‘critical’ political parties and that independents were reducing their numbers working in the Leinster House complex.

The Oireachtas had already reduced the number of their staff there by 50%, but that had not been matched by the TDs, senators and their staff.

He also said that if antigen kits were provided, it would only be on a voluntary basis for use “preferably before leaving home”.

The briefing stressed that TDs and senators should be warned that a negative test – combined with Covid symptoms – could not justify coming to work or ignoring public health advice.

The newspaper also said that although there was an increase in the number of cases around Leinster House, there was no evidence of ‘clusters’ of infection.

He said that ruled out any immediate need for a testing system as had been used in some healthcare facilities and meat processing plants.

Internal emails detail how the document was circulated among facility management unit officials on November 17, with instructions to order antigen tests the following day.

The antigen testing plan was then revealed at a committee meeting the following day, with reports that the tests would be provided free of charge to TDs and senators.

Shortly after, Chief Government Whip Jack Chambers wrote to Ceann Comhairle to say that the three coalition parties wanted to make a “full contribution” to the costs.

The filings also detail how the Oireachtas was asked to carry out a data protection impact assessment ahead of any test plan.

A spokeswoman for Oireachtas said: ‘It is normal for officials to write briefing papers outlining the various pros and cons of any given issue.

“These are then discussed and decided by others. What has been released is a record of such an information document.

“The statement released in response to media queries at the time was that antigen testing would not be free for TDs and senators.

“As an employer, the Oireachtas Houses service provides free testing to its staff who must be on site.

“This is part of our ongoing efforts to keep the parliamentary community and workplace safe,” the spokeswoman said.