Harney and officials travelled to Florida at expense of Fás in 2004


The then tánaiste and minister for enterprise Mary Harney travelled to Orlando, Florida, at the expense of Fás in July 2004 in a party that included the former director general of Fás, Rody Molloy, and his wife, and the then secretary general of Ms Harney's department, Paul Haran, and his wife.

Mr Molloy announced his resignation on Tuesday following intense controversy over expenditure on trips to Florida, including expensive flights for his wife paid for by Fás. As head of Fás he reported to Ms Harney's then department.

The flights in July 2004 cost €4,824.07 each. Also on the trip were Ms Harney's husband, the then chairman of Fás, Brian Geoghegan, Ms Harney's press secretary and her private secretary.

A spokesman for Ms Harney, who is now the Minister for Health and Children, rejected any suggestion that she had run up a bill of $410 with a hair and nail salon called Solutions, at Cocoa Beach, near Cape Canaveral, while on the trip.

He said Ms Harney had three days of official engagements in Florida and as was her normal practice in her capacity as Minister "she availed of standard wash and blow dries in preparation for her official engagements".

"The Minister is certain that this does not account for a total of $410. It is simply not the case that the Minister incurred a $410 bill for herself and any such insinuation is totally wrong.

"She certainly did not have any nail treatments or facials. She has never done so and would never do so on official business."

Mr Molloy was asked on Monday by Pat Kenny on RTÉ radio about the $410 bill, which was paid for by Fás. He replied. "With all due respects. Getting into detail of the preparation of somebody for a particular event, again the amount of money in terms of the total package is very, very small."

It is understood persons staying at the Radisson Resort hotel at Cape Canaveral could avail of hair treatment services at the hotel and the bill was accrued in this way. Sources close to Ms Harney last night accepted that services she had received might have contributed to the $410 bill.

Fine Gael spokesman on enterprise Leo Varadkar said last night Ms Harney's position as Minister for Health had become untenable.

"These issues first surfaced on Sunday and were raised in the Dáil on Tuesday and today. At leaders' questions yesterday she sat beside the Taoiseach while Enda Kenny challenged him on the use of taxpayers' money for beauty treatments on trips to Florida. "He specifically asked if he knew the identity of the individual in question. Mary Harney said nothing until the information was dragged from her by journalists this evening."

In July 2004 Ms Harney was attending the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Fás and the Kennedy Space Centre as part of the successful Science Challenge programme initiated by Fás.