‘Limo services’ for Pence visit to Dublin and Doonbeg top €545,000

Wicklow firm says sum is ‘global figure for multiple services’ including other vendors

US vice-president Mike Pence  at Shannon Airport

US vice-president Mike Pence at Shannon Airport

 

The cost of “limousine services” for the visit of US vice-president Mike Pence to Dublin and Donald Trump’s golf resort at Doonbeg, Co Clare topped almost $600,000 (€545,000), US government records show.

The State Department issued 21 contracts on dates between August 21st and September 5th to cover ground transportation expenses, including travel, lodgings, relocation expenses and the recruitment of drivers for Mr Pence’s two-night visit earlier this month.

The records, sourced from the US government’s procurement system, show the largest contract was for $204,823 on August 27th followed by a contract of $111,754 on August 22nd.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a left-leaning US government watchdog, queried the high cost of limousine services on Mr Pence’s visit.

The group described his “detour” from Dublin – where he had official engagements with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and President Michael D Higgins – to spend two nights at Doonbeg as “highly inconvenient and extremely expensive”.

The group noted that limousine costs for then-president Barack Obama’s visit to Ireland in 2013 cost just $114,000.

Ground transportation costs for Mr Trump’s visit to Co Clare in June cost almost $1 million.

‘Substantial amount of cars’

The Pence visit contracts refers to the “vendor” as JP Ward & Son, a company based in Bray, Co Wicklow listed as a “specialised funeral service” on its website.

Philip Ward, the company’s owner, said his business had not yet raised an invoice for the work provided for the visit and that the €550,000 included payments to other vendors, including a trucking company that also provided transport.

The name of his company was listed on the contracts as he was one of the largest vendors for the visit, he said, and the contracts related to budgets being set aside by the US government for the work.

“It is a global figure for multiple services. For some reason, it all comes under our umbrella,” he said.

“There was a substantial amount of cars and transportation. There is a lot of preparation that goes into a visit. We could be working for weeks in advance.”

A spokesman for the US embassy in Dublin directed queries about the contracts to the White House, which did not respond to a request for comment.

Democrats have accused Mr Pence of funnelling US taxpayers’ money into a Trump business and have demanded documents from the White House to determine whether the administration has violated government spending rules.

Mr Trump has said he had “nothing to do” with Mr Pence’s decision to stay at Doonbeg and that he decided to stay there because he had family in the Co Clare village.

Mr Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short had previously said Mr Trump had suggested staying at the hotel.