Leo’s fly­ing shame

240KM Fury over €5,500 for he­li­copter jour­ney that would have cost a frac­tion by car or train...

Irish Daily Mirror - - NEWS - BY FER­GHAL BLANEY Po­lit­i­cal Re­porter SALTHILL INIS MEAIN DUBLIN

LEO Varad­kar was blasted yes­ter­day for wast­ing more than €5,500 of tax­pay­ers’ money on a he­li­copter to fly him to a photo-op.

The Taoiseach, two ju­nior min­is­ters and six staff mem­bers were picked up in Dublin and flown to one of the Aran Is­lands so he could an­nounce a school’s new in­de­pen­dent sta­tus.

Then they were taken to Salthill, Co Gal­way, for the Fine Gael think-in.

A Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest from the Ir­ish Mir­ror re­vealed the trip €5,512 and also took up the time of three Army crew.

Yes­ter­day So­cial Democrats co-leader Cather­ine Mur­phy said: “How can the Taoiseach pos­si­bly jus­tify us­ing a De­fence Force he­li­copter to bring him­self and his col­leagues to a photo-op at a school on one of the Aran Is­lands?

“€5,500 is a huge ex­pense for a jour­ney that would have cost a frac­tion of that price if it had been made by car or train.

“And is it just a co­in­ci­dence that the school event took place a day ahead of the Fine Gael think-in in Gal­way?

“It must surely grate on mem­bers of our De­fence Forces to read re­ports about this kind of flaithu­lach use of an Army he­li­copter at pub­lic ex­pense, when their wages are so low that some sol­diers are fac­ing home­less­ness and be­ing told not to have chil­dren.” The he­li­copter was used for Mr Varad­kar, ju­nior min­is­ters Sean Kyne and Joe Mchugh and six staff mem­bers on Septem­ber 5.

The Taoiseach and his en­tourage could have saved thou­sands of euro by be­ing driven to Con­nemara Air­port in In­verin and then tak­ing an Aer Arann Is­lands flight to Inis Meain. Or he could have used the ferry from Ros­saveel Port.

The dis­tance by air be­tween Dublin and Inis Meain is just over 200km and the dis­tance back into Gal­way city was an­other 40km.

This makes for a rate of €22.05 per kilo­me­tre.

The chop­per left Bal­don­nel Air­port and picked up its VIP pas­sen­gers at Phoenix Park, be­fore then head­ing to Gal­way.

The he­li­copter used for the trip was an Air Corps Agusta AW 139 and an air­craft com­man­der, a co-pi­lot and one crew manned the flight.

The to­tal fly­ing time was 104 min­utes and the cost of the Agusta is €3,180 an hour.

SO­CIAL DEMOCRATS

How can they jus­tify us­ing a De­fence Forces he­li­copter? CATHER­INE MUR­PHY

COP OUT Leo Varad­kar in Inis Meain last month JOUR­NEY From Dublin to Aran Is­lands

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