The real cost of host­ing vis­its from VIPs...

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - OUT AND ABOUT - By Ken Foxe news@mailon­sun­

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.’

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