€20,000 spent on overseas trips for Hanafin's mother
TOURISM Minister Mary Hanafin no longer brings her mother overseas on state visits as her accompanying partner.
Around €20,000 of taxpayers' money was spent between 2005 and 2007 to bring Mona Hanafin on official government visits. The minister's mother was invited on the state visits in place of Ms Hanafin's husband, who died in 2003.
Yesterday, Ms Hanafin said it had been suggested to her that her mother accompany her on the visits as it was usual for partners to go with ministers and to attend social functions together. Mona Hanafin travelled on four official state visits with her daughter.
These journeys were to New Zealand, the US and Dubai.
The bill for these trips came to in excess of €20,000 for flight and accommodation costs.
Detailed expenses, revealed by journalist Ken Foxe in his book 'Snouts in the Trough', show the most expensive trip was to New Zealand, when the minister accompanied President Mary McAleese on an official visit to Wellington and Auckland.
Flights there for Mona Hanafin cost €10,166.
The minister was also accompanied by an adviser. Transport on the ground for the three women cost €2,747, while hotel rooms for the group cost €1,100.
Yesterday, Ms Hanafin said her mother no longer accompanied her on trips abroad.
"It is common practice for St Patrick's Day visits and accompanying the President on a state visit that a spouse can travel because there is a huge amount of representational, social events involved as well and other people have taken their spouse," Ms Hanafin said.
"So immediately after the death of my husband, it was suggested to me that my mother might like to accompany me and did just on St Patrick's Day and on the state visit of the President.
"A couple of those were for long visits because they were to New Zealand with the President. Because of that, there were costs which amounted to about €20,000 but obviously as time has passed . . . I don't bring her with me as an accompanying person."
The Government has argued that the return to the Irish economy from the trips makes the budgets worthwhile.
Ms Hanafin has always maintained a very close relationship with her parents. Her father Des Hanafin is a former Fianna Fail senator.
The minister's husband Eamon Leahy, a senior counsel, died suddenly in 2003.
Official guidelines from the Department of Finance on trips abroad for ministers and civil servants dictate that travel costs should not be paid if people have no direct connection with the department in question.
However, there is an exception where an invitation is extended by a "host country for a special occasion and the appropriate minister has certified that attendance is in the public interest".