Rents for Irish diplomats abroad spiral by one-third

Department of Foreign Affairs forced to increase allowance worldwide to €7.5m

The opening of a new consulate in Hong Kong in 2015 saw “rental allowance” costs soar there from €29,080 to €295,062. Photograph: Billy HC Kwok/Bloomberg

The opening of a new consulate in Hong Kong in 2015 saw “rental allowance” costs soar there from €29,080 to €295,062. Photograph: Billy HC Kwok/Bloomberg

 

Spiralling rents in New York City have forced the Department of Foreign Affairs to increase by more than one-third the rent allowance it pays to its diplomats stationed at the United Nations.

During 2015, the rent bill for its UN staff jumped from €463,311 to €627,981, blamed on “results from adverse exchange rate movements, significant growth in rental costs in New York and changes in staff”.

Meanwhile, the rent for foreign affairs staff based at the Consulate-General in Manhattan rose from €153,727 in 2014 to €180,602 last year, according to a parliamentary reply.

The largest single rent allowance bill for embassy staff abroad was in another property hotspot – London, where the rent allowance paid to diplomats and support staff rose to €1.17 million from €1.09 million in 2014.

Overall, the foreign affairs bill to house its people in foreign postings rose by 8.5 per cent, from €6.595 million in 2014 to €7.15 million last year. The second-largest bill arises, predictably, in Brussels, one of the department’s largest operations.

The figures show rent allowances in Paris rose to €337,133, while the bill for Washington comes in at €343,876. The opening of a new consulate in Hong Kong in 2015 saw “rental allowance” costs soar there from €29,080 to €295,062.

In a written Dáil reply to TD John Paul Phelan, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said a rent allowance was given to enable them to rent suitable accommodation.

“The department uses an independent advisory service to advise on appropriate rent levels in the locations in which it is based around the world. The primary criteria in assessing rent allowances is the size of the officer’s family.” He added: “Other possible considerations would include security requirements . . . proximity to schools and the mission, as well as health and safety issues.”

Rent bills are paid subject to expenses checks. All other costs, the Minister said, were the responsibility of the official, as they would be were they stationed in Ireland.