Kenny's travel bill higher than Cowen's

Wed, Nov 7, 2012, 00:00

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Ministers in his office have increased the number and cost of foreign trips by a third since assuming office compared to his predecessor Brian Cowen.

Analysis by The Irish Times of foreign travel by the Taoiseach, his Ministers of State, and their delegations shows that the Department of An Taoiseach has spent €108,000 on commercial flights, accommodation, limousine hire and other costs in the first nine months of 2012. This does not include the cost of travelling on either of the government jets, which the Taoiseach frequently uses.

In contrast, then taoiseach Brian Cowen, his department’s ministers, and delegations spent a total of €64,000 in the first nine months of 2010.

The breakdown of costs also showed Coalition delegations have made almost a third more trips than their predecessors.

The new Government has managed to reduce dramatically the number of flying hours on the two government jets, a Learjet and a Gulfstream, from 320 hours in 2010 to slightly over 200 hours in 2011. However, the reduction is attributable to fewer senior Ministers being allowed use of the jet. A Minister who requests the jet must show that there are no alternative scheduled flights available or make an exceptional case on grounds of urgency.

Frequent flier

The Taoiseach is the most frequent user of the jet and this is expected to increase during Ireland’s presidency of the EU. He will use it on Thursday when he visits three capital cities in three countries during the course of one day, before returning to Dublin that evening. They are: Budapest, where he will meet Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban; Vienna, where he will meet Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann; and Berlin, where he will accept the “European of the Year” prize, awarded by VDZ magazine.

Mr Kenny flew on a commercial airline on one long-haul flight this year, to Beijing in China. The flights for Mr Kenny and the five officials who accompanied him came to €26,914 or about €4,500 each.

The biggest items of expenditure were car and limousine hire in Washington, London, Davos in Switzerland, New York, Beijing, and multiple trips to Brussels. The total bill came to over €33,000 or almost a third of the entire cost.

The cost of transport to take the Taoiseach’s delegation from Zurich to Davos for the World Economic Forum in February was €3,122, while transport and limousine hire for two trips by the Taoiseach to New York in February came to €3,035.

Similarly transport for Mr Kenny’s delegation during his trip to Boston in February came to €3,169, while the following month transport costs in Chicago came to €2,688.

Other items included the cost of an official photographer in Washington during Mr Kenny’s St Patrick’s Day trip to the US capital, which came to €2,874, and translator’s fees during his trip to Beijing earlier this year, which totalled €3,152.

Limousine and car hire also formed a substantial part of the travel costs when Mr Cowen was taoiseach in 2010.