The real cost of hosting visits from VIPs...
A HOTEL suite costing €600 per night, a limousines and minibus bill that totalled some €5,000, and VIP airport hospitality totting up to €1,744 were among the costs billed to the taxpayer when foreign dignitaries came to stay.
Details of seven ‘bilateral’ trips over the last 18 months reveal that little expense was spared in hosting visiting delegations to Ireland with swish hotels, swanky restaurants, and day trips all laid on. The costs were all met by the Oireachtas – but in return, Irish TDs and senators get their hotel, dining, and entertainment bills paid during the inevitable return visit overseas.
A trip to a pub for a trad gig at a cost of €200
Last November, for the visit of a delegation from Hungary, the Oireachtas paid out €600 per night for luxury accommodation for National Assembly speaker Laszlo Kover.
His three-night personal bill of €1,800 was part of a €4,410 bill for four Hungarian politicians to stay at the Merrion. Another €1,744 was spent on platinum services at Dublin Airport for the eightstrong delegation along with €5,126 on limousine and minibus transfers.
During their tour, they were taken to JJ Mahon’s pub in Kildare where they were entertained by trad musicians, at a cost of €200. With the Dublin food scene undergoing a renaissance in recent years, delegates travelling here would have been aware they were in for a treat. And for most visiting politicians, the restaurant of choice was Hugo’s, on Merrion Row, near Leinster House.
Twenty-two people dined there when a German delegation visited in February 2017. The final bill was €1,320. That group was later entertained by a performance of Strolling Through Ulysses at Sweny’s Pharmacy, a famous location from James Joyce’s novel. It cost €300.
For the visit of a delegation from the United Arab Emirates last year, sizeable bills began to clock up as soon as the group arrived in Ireland.
VIP services at Dublin Airport for the 23-strong group came to just over €5,500. Amal Abdulla Alqubaisi, speaker of the Federal National Council, was put up at the five-star InterContinental Hotel for three nights, with the final bill coming to €1,500. On the fourth evening of their trip, the group were hosted for dinner by Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl at Hartes restaurant in Kildare town with a tab for €1,082.50 picked up by the Oireachtas.
For an Estonian delegation, the room rate was not quite so high with €450 a night paid for the head of the delegation to stay at the Shelbourne. Three other politicians accompanying him made do with rooms costing €209 each night.
The hotel bill at the Davenport for a delegation from Australia came to €4,618. Delegations from Slovenia and Kuwait were also welcomed by the Oireachtas last year, records obtained under FOI show.
A statement from the Oireachtas said they hosted official visits in a ‘manner reflecting appropriate respect for their office and in line with well-established bilateral diplomatic practice. For each visit, hotel bookings are made following a process of tendering among several hotels.’