After the John O'Donogue expenses fiasco in 2009, and prior to the St. Patrick's Day travel this year, Brian Cowen stood up in the Dáil and said that travel expenses should be reduced. Luxury limousines should not be used unless absolutely necessary. Yet here we see the hollowness of those words in his parallel universe. In addition it turns out our Embassy staff are living the high life despite severe cutbacks back home.
It's time for Cowen to set an example and end this hypocritical ostentatiousness. He's the Government leader of a tiny island nation that is practically bankrupt. He's not the King of Saudi Arabia with a massive surplus of cash. In addition the Department of Foreign Affairs needs to have a serious word with all 'our excellencies' in embassies and consulates abroad and tell them to get a grip. A serious review of the cost benefits of some of our embassies/consulates abroad needs to be undertaken.
Sunday Tribune 15th August 2010: Taoiseach's travel costs over €35,000 (excluding Government jet costs)The full cost of the Taoiseach's visit to America for St Patrick's Day has also become clear with bills still arriving. A €140.96 porterage charge for "moving the luggage" at the Hilton Hotel in Chicago was not billed until early last month [...]
Limousine charges in the Windy City came to €2,622, according to the Department of the Taoiseach [...]
From Chicago, the Taoiseach and his entourage moved on to the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco where Cowen's room cost €264. Another bill for €3,999 was also run up in California, charged by Carey International Car Hire, who provided luxury transport [...]
The days of costly hotel room charges also appear to have made a comeback with €500 paid for a single night at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Brussels later in March. A banquet room was also hired at the same hotel for €300 [...] Even though Cowen was only in the Belgian capital for a single day, he still managed to run up a car hire cost of €1,315 [...]
Another €1,300 was also spent on accommodation at the luxury hotel for the delegation and for the Taoiseach's private secretary. Limousine costs for that that trip were paid for in May of this year and came to €3,993 through Admiral Car Hire in Washington DC.
As for our embassies, in a separate article the Tribune reports:
Sunday Tribune 15th August 2010: There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's...Irish embassy staff are living it large and running up massive bills on everything from lavish meals in top restaurants to furniture from upmarket stores.
Hundreds of thousands of euro have been charged to government-issued credit cards by our men in Havana, and elsewhere. Meals costing over €2,000, NBA basketball tickets, wine at off-licences, home furnishings, pictures and congestion charges were all paid for by credit cards, with the bill inevitably picked up by the taxpayer. [...]
Another frequent addition to the credit-card bill was Binny's Beverage Depot, an upmarket Chicago off-licence, where the bill in June 2008 was $1,876 (€1,443).
October of that year also proved costly, with a $5,018 (€3,860) bill charged to the card, which included a $2,485 (€1,911) tab at Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans.
Also charged to a separate card that month was the purchase of a sofa for $1,600 (€1,230).
Two days in Houston in November 2008 came with a price tag of more than $4,000 (€3,076), which included a $2,064 (€1,587) bill at the swish Pesces restaurant. [...]
In September 2008, one of the largest charges of all was made for $5,380 (€4,137) at Polo New York, the famous clothing store.
In Paris, details of payments for 2009 have only been made available, with €10,673 spent, more than half of which went on home furnishings.
We are where we are...