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Sunday 4 December 2016

Ambassador used UK embassy for daughter's wedding

Craig Hughes

Published 03/07/2011 | 05:00

The Department of Foreign Affairs has defended the use of embassy facilities in London for the lavish wedding of the ambassador's daughter.

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"Ambassadors are not required to seek approval for private or family events held in the residence. The costs of such events are met by the ambassador personally," said the department.

Bobby McDonagh, the Irish ambassador in London, last month used the ballroom of the Irish Embassy in London to host his daughter's wedding reception, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

More than 150 guests, some of whom came from Ireland, attended the reception in the plush Irish embassy ballroom in one of London's most expensive addresses.

Mr McDonagh paid for the food and wine. The ambassador's official car, a 7 series BMW and a second official car, a people carrier, and two chauffeurs were used to ferry guests from the church to the embassy on the day of the wedding.

The 56-year-old career diplomat earns close to €170,000 a year, and as a senior civil servant he would have been entitled to performance-related bonus pay during the boom years.

He also has the 7 series BMW courtesy of the State, a chauffeur, an official residence above the embassy and free flights to and from Ireland for official State business. "All embassies need to be looked at in terms of their relevance," said the FF chairman of the Public Accounts Committee John McGuinness.

Mr McDonagh is one of the country's foremost experts on European affairs and served as assistant secretary of the EU Division and was Ireland's permanent representative to Brussels before being posted to London.

The embassy is located in one of the most lavish locations in London, 17 Grosvenor Place, just around the corner from Eaton Square, which boasts high-profile residents such as former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.

The State pays more than €500,000 a year in rent for the building alone.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has refused to comment on whether the use of embassy assets, cars or staff for private use was sanctioned.

In a statement, the department said that ambassadors were not required to seek permission for the use of their residence -- however the ballroom where the wedding took place is in the embassy. The residence is in the same building, but above the embassy.The department would also not comment on whether official guidelines exist on the appropriate use of embassy premises and official cars for private functions.

Sunday Independent

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